IN MEMORIAM: David Cassidy of The Partridge Family // Other Notable Musicians’ Deaths
David Bruce Cassidy (April 12, 1950 – November 21, 2017) was an American actor, singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He was known for his role as Keith Partridge, the son of Shirley Partridge (played by his stepmother Shirley Jones), in the 1970s musical-sitcom The Partridge Family, which led to his becoming one of popular culture’s teen idols and pop singers of the 1970s. He later had a career in both acting and music.
Cassidy was born at Flower Fifth Avenue Hospital in New York City, the son of singer and actor Jack Cassidy and actress Evelyn Ward. His father was of half Irish and half German ancestry, and his mother was descended from Colonial Americans of Irish and Swiss origin. Some of his mother’s ancestors were among the founders of Newark, New Jersey.
As his parents were frequently touring on the road, he spent his early years being raised by his maternal grandparents in a middle-class neighborhood in West Orange, New Jersey. In 1956, he found out from neighbors’ children that his parents had been divorced for over two years and had not told him. David’s parents had decided because he was at such a young age, it would be better for his emotional stability to not discuss it at that time. They were gone often with theater productions and home life remained the same.
In 1956, Cassidy’s father married singer and actress Shirley Jones. They had three children: David’s half-brothers Shaun (b. 1958), Patrick (b. 1962), and Ryan (b. 1966). In 1968, after completing one final session of summer school to obtain credits necessary to get a high-school diploma, David moved into the rental home of Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones in Irvington, New York, where his half-brothers also resided. David remained there seeking fame as an actor/musician while simultaneously working half-days in the mailroom of a textile firm. He moved out when his career began to flourish.
Cassidy’s father, Jack, is credited with setting his son up with his first manager. After signing with Universal Studios in 1969, Jack introduced him to former table tennis champion and close friend Ruth Aarons, who later found her niche as a talent manager, given her theater background. Aarons had represented Jack and Shirley Jones for several years prior, and later represented Cassidy’s half-brother Shaun. Aarons became an authority figure and close friend to Cassidy, and was the driving force behind his on-screen success. After making small wages from Screen Gems for his work on The Partridge Family during season one, Aarons discovered a loophole in his contract and renegotiated it with far superior terms, and a four-year duration, a rare stipulation at the time.
On January 2, 1969, Cassidy made his professional debut in the Broadway musical The Fig Leaves Are Falling. It closed after four performances, but a casting director saw the show and asked Cassidy to make a screen test. In 1969, he moved to Los Angeles. After signing with Universal Studios in 1969, Cassidy was featured in episodes of the television series Ironside, Marcus Welby, M.D., Adam-12 and Bonanza.
In 1970, Cassidy took the role of Keith Partridge, son of Shirley Partridge, who was played by Cassidy’s real stepmother and series lead Shirley Jones. The Partridge Family series creator Bernard Slade and producers Paul Junger Witt and Bob Claver did not care whether Cassidy could sing, knowing only that his androgynous good looks would guarantee success. Shortly after production began, though, Cassidy convinced music producer Wes Farrell that he was good enough, and he was promoted to lead singer for the series’ recordings.
Once “I Think I Love You” became a hit, Cassidy began work on solo albums, as well. Within the first year, he had produced his own single, a cover of The Association’s “Cherish” (from the album of the same title), which reached number nine in the United States, number two in the United Kingdom (a double A-side with “Could It Be Forever”), and number one in Australia and New Zealand. He began tours that featured Partridge tunes and his own hits. Cassidy achieved far greater solo chart success in the UK than in his native America, including a cover of The Young Rascals’ “How Can I Be Sure” and the double A-side single “Daydreamer” / “The Puppy Song” — two UK number ones which failed to chart in the States. In Britain, Cassidy the solo star remains best known for “Daydreamer”, “How Can I Be Sure” and “Could It Be Forever” (UK no. 2/US no. 37), all released during his 1972–73 solo chart peak. Though he wanted to become a respected rock musician along the lines of Mick Jagger, his channel to stardom launched him into the ranks of teen idol, a brand he loathed until much later in life, when he managed to come to terms with his bubblegum pop beginnings.
Ten albums by The Partridge Family and five solo albums were produced during the series, with most selling more than a million copies each. Internationally, Cassidy’s solo career eclipsed the already phenomenal success of The Partridge Family. He became an instant drawcard, with sellout concert successes in major arenas around the world. These concerts produced mass hysteria, resulting in the media coining the term “Cassidymania”. For example, he played to two sellout crowds of 56,000 each at the Houston Astrodome in Texas over one weekend in 1972. His concert in New York’s Madison Square Garden sold out in one day and resulted in riots after the show. His concert tours of the United Kingdom included sellout concerts at Wembley Stadium in 1973. In Australia in 1974, the mass hysteria was such that calls were made to have him deported from the country, especially after the madness at his 33,000-person audience concert at Melbourne Cricket Ground.
A turning point in Cassidy’s live concerts (while still filming The Partridge Family) was a gate stampede which killed a teenage girl. At a show in London’s White City Stadium on May 26, 1974, nearly 800 were injured in a crush at the front of the stage. Thirty were taken to the hospital, and one, 14-year-old Bernadette Whelan, died four days later at London’s Hammersmith Hospital without regaining consciousness after the excitement and press of the crowd caused a pre-existing heart condition to trigger cardiac arrest. The show was the penultimate date on a world tour. A deeply affected Cassidy faced the press, trying to make sense of what had happened. Out of respect for the family and to avoid turning the girl’s funeral into a media circus, Cassidy did not attend the service, although he spoke to Whelan’s parents and sent flowers. Cassidy stated at the time that this would haunt him until the day he died.
By this point, Cassidy had decided to quit both touring and acting in The Partridge Family, concentrating instead on recording and songwriting. International success continued, mostly in Great Britain, Germany, and Japan, when he released three well-received solo albums on RCA in 1975 and 1976. Cassidy became the first recording artist to have a hit with “I Write the Songs”, a top-20 record in Great Britain before the song became Barry Manilow’s signature tune. Cassidy’s recording was produced by the song’s author-composer, Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys.
In 1978, Cassidy starred in an episode of Police Story titled “A Chance to Live”, for which he received an Emmy Award nomination. NBC created a series based on it, called David Cassidy: Man Undercover, but it was cancelled after one season. A decade later, the successful Fox series 21 Jump Street used the same plot, with different youthful-looking police officers infiltrating a high school.
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On February 20, 2017, Cassidy announced that he was living with dementia, the condition that his mother suffered from at the end of her life. He retired from performing in early 2017 when the condition became noticeable during a performance in which he forgot lyrics and otherwise struggled.
On November 18, 2017, it was announced that Cassidy had been hospitalized suffering from liver and kidney failure, and was critically ill in a medically induced coma. He came out of the coma two days later, remaining in critical but stable condition. Doctors hoped to keep Cassidy stable until a liver became available for transplant, but he died of liver failure on November 21, 2017, aged 67. According to his daughter Kate, his last words were “So much wasted time”.
Read the whole bio here. Lots more to Mr. Cassidy’s life and career:
Photo credit: The original uploader was Rosecooney at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Motopark using CommonsHelper.
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Other Notable Musicians’ Deaths… November 2017
28: Magín Díaz, 94, Colombian folk singer and songwriter, Latin Grammy winner (2017); Shadia, 86, Egyptian actress and singer, stroke.
27: Narayanrao Bodas, 85, Indian singer; Robert Popwell, 70, American bass guitarist (The Young Rascals, The Crusaders).
26: Oscar Alem, 76, Argentine pianist and composer; Patrick Bourgeois, 54, Canadian musician (Les B.B.), cancer.
25: Enrico Boccadoro, 42, Italian singer and songwriter.
24: Mitch Margo, 70, American singer and songwriter (The Tokens); Clotilde Rosa, 87, Portuguese harpist, music educator and composer.
23: Carol Neblett, 71, American operatic soprano; Bari Siddiqui, 63, Bangladeshi singer and songwriter, kidney disease.
22: George Avakian, 98, American record producer and executive (Columbia Records); John Coates Jr., 79, American jazz pianist; Jon Hendricks, 96, American jazz singer and songwriter (Lambert, Hendricks & Ross); Dmitri Hvorostovsky, 55, Russian opera singer, brain cancer;
Shawn Jones, 32, American gospel singer, apparent heart attack; Tommy Keene, 59, American singer and songwriter.
21: David Cassidy, 67, American pop singer (“Cherish”, “How Can I Be Sure”) and actor (The Partridge Family), liver failure; Wayne Cochran, 78, American soul singer and songwriter (“Last Kiss”), cancer.
20: Laila Sari, 82, Indonesian singer and actress (Wadjah Seorang Laki-laki); Izabella Zielinska, 106, Polish pianist and educator.