In my opinion, teenage heartthrob David Cassidy was so gorgeous that few people noticed how talented he was.
He was overlooked by intellectual snobs, but gave so much joy to millions of young people with his beautiful voice.
His very public decline into multiple divorces, estranged family, bankruptcy, and dementia was awful to witness – but his shocking confession before his death wasn’t what we expected at all…
The road to stardom
A generation of TV viewers grew up watching—and singing along to—the adventures of The Partridge Family, the classic ’70s sitcom about a family who form a band, tour around in one very groovy bus, and ask viewers to “Come On, Get Happy.”
The show, which aired from 1970 to 1974, made stars out of young talents like David Cassidy and Susan Dey – but it was Oscar-winner Shirley Jones who headlined the show as Shirley Partridge, the widowed mother who runs the band.
For New York native Cassidy, it felt like he had the world sitting in the palm of his hand while starring in The Partridge Family. Cassidy’s character, Keith Partridge, was the band’s lead singer, and his good looks and charming personality made him a favorite among teenage girls.
David was born in 1950, and his parents were well-known names in the entertainment industry. He was the son of singer and actor Jack Cassidy and actress Evelyn Ward.
“My earliest recollection of my father is being taken to see him in a matinee. I have a vivid memory of me, in the back of the taxi afterwards, saying, “Dad, that’s what I want to do.” They looked at me and said, “Yes, you can do that, but not until you graduate from school.” I was three,” Cassidy told The Guardian.
David grew up in Manhattan until he was five. His parents toured a lot, and when they got divorced, he moved to his grandparents in the middle-class neighborhood of West Orange, New Jersey.
“My grandmother led the senior church choir and I was the lead vocalist for the juniors. My grandparents gave me a really strong, positive, loving foundation,” Cassidy explained.
While living with his grandparents, David didn’t know about his parent’s breakup. Apparently, David only found out that his parents had been divorced for over two years when some neighborhood children told him.
When David turned 11, he moved to Los Angeles to live with his father and his stepmother, actress Shirley Jones. David became very close to his stepmother – Shirley would later play alongside him in Partridge Family.
After graduating from school in L.A, David moved back to New York to seek fame as an actor/musician. He landed his first professional role in the Broadway musical The Fig Leaves Are Falling, but the show wasn’t a success.
While trying to pursue his dream, the aspiring actor had to take a low-paid job in a mail room of a textile house. At this stage, things didn’t look good.
But then, in 1970, Cassidy auditioned for the role of Keith Partridge on the musical television show The Partridge Family. The youthful-looking performer made a strong impression on the producers, and his spell on the squeaky-clean television show would change his life forever.
In the series, David excelled at everything; singing, songwriting, producing and playing musical instruments. On top of his acting and, needless to say, his mesmerizing good looks, he truly had it all!
David, then just 20 years old, became a giant teen idol thanks to his breakout role on the show. Back then, almost every girl had Charlie perfume on their wrists, strawberry-flavored gloss on their lips, and David Cassidy posters on their bedroom walls.
David attracted the attention of millions of women worldwide, including co-star Susan Dey, who had a big crush on the singing sensation.
It wasn’t until after the show finished that they started dating. Still, their affair was short-lived, with Cassidy ending it abruptly and later revealing private details about Dey in his memoir, including his view that she was too innocent for him.
Despite the couple staying friends even after their romance ended, the intimate details hurt Dey, and she vowed never to see him again. She even refused to attend a Partridge family reunion years later.
Nevertheless, the Partridge Family was a tremendous success, and made David a multi-millionaire. At the peak of his popularity, he was one the highest-paid solo artist in the world; during ‘Cassidymania’, his fan club was larger than even The Beatles and Elvis Presley could boast.
On top of that, David sold more than 25 million copies of each of his singles.
“I was the breakthrough person in merchandising. I busted through the gate, and the rest of them just stormed through. But I was the first person to renegotiate and get a piece of the show, the first person to get anything from these people. It’s little in comparison to today, but it was a lot then and you have to put things in their proper perspective. I would have $80 million instead of $8 million now. But that’s fine. I did it when I did it and I have no regrets about doing it. I got to do something that three or four, maybe 10 people in the history of the world — let’s see, The Beatles, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra — got to do. Maybe nine or 10 people in the history of the planet.”David Cassidy speaking with Yahoo
Of course, being one of the most recognized faces in the world, the young star had a hard time navigating the field of fame.
He felt a huge pressure from his rise in popularity, with “mass hysteria” surrounding his every move, according to his memoir C’mon, Get Happy: Fear and Loathing on the Partridge Family Bus. After leaving the popular sitcom in 1974, David came to hate the fact that people associated him so much with the character of Keith Partridge.
“I was never uncomfortable with the fact that it had a tremendous impact and was so successful. I just didn’t want to be a nostalgia act. I wanted to go on and have a present, have a front ended career,” he told Detroit Free Press on 2001.
Despite reaching enormous fame, David’s career declined – even though he continued to appear in musical theatres and perform as a solo artist.
By the 1980s, he admitted that he was broke.
Cassidy’s career decline can be attributed to a variety of factors. One major part was the changing musical landscape in the 1970s – but David also struggled with personal issues, which negatively impacted his career and public image.
David Cassidy children
In his personal life, David tied the knot three times. His first wife was actress Kay Lenz; then he married Meryl Tanz (a horse breeder). His third wife was Sue Shifrin.
In 1986, The Patridge Family star had a daughter, Katie, with girlfriend Sherry Williams. It was short-lived romance and Katie, who now works as an actress, was raised by her Sherry and stepfather Richard Benedon.
“I’ve never had a relationship with her. I wasn’t her father. I was her biological father but I didn’t raise her. She has a completely different life. I’m proud of her. She’s very talented. It’s hard for me to even accept how old she is now,” David said in 2017.
David also has a son, Beau, from his marriage with Sue Shifrin. Beau was born in 1991, and according to his Twitter bio, he seems to be following in his father’s footsteps. Beau currently works as a singer-songwriter and it’s clear that he and David shared a special bond.
While being interview by People in 2017, David stated: “He’s just one of the best people you’ll ever meet in your life and it’s that that I’m proud of. He just turned 26. He’s such a beautiful person.”
David Cassidy’s last years
David Cassidy sadly passed away on November 21, 2017.
The former teenage star had been battling several health issues before he died of liver failure. Like many other former teenage stars, his drinking problem clouded the last years of his life.
In 2008, David went public with his problem and said that he was going to seek help. He managed to convince family and friends that he had stopped drinking – but it was all a lie.
During his last live performance, in February 2017, David forgot the lyrics to songs he had been singing for nearly 50 years. According to reports, the singer also appeared to be drunk and fell off the stage.
David then announced that he had been diagnosed with dementia and was retiring from all further performing. But the truth was that his drinking caused his declining health.
In the documentary David Cassidy: The Last Session, David could be heard making a shock confession. Just two months prior to his death, the iconic heartthrob of the ’70s had a telephone conversation with an A&E producer that was recorded. Once again he was hospitalized – but this time, he decided to come clean about how he had lied about his drinking.
“I have a liver disease,” Cassidy said to A&E producer Saralena Weinfield.
“There is no sign of me having dementia at this stage of my life. It was completely alcohol poisoning. My life has changed dramatically. The first few days I was unconscious and near death. The last week or so my memory has come back,” David said.
On November 18, 2017, David’s liver and kidney started to give out. He was placed in a medically induced coma, but came out of the coma two days later.
Doctors hoped that they could save his life by offering a liver transplant, but it was too late. David died of liver failure on November 21, 2017, at the age of 67.
Davids’s daughter Katie took to Twitter and shared her father’s last words on the deathbed:
“My father’s last words were “So much wasted time”. This will be a daily reminder for me to share my gratitude with those I love as to never waste another minute….thank you,” she wrote.
Millions mourned the passing of David, including his stepmother Shirley Jones – who fondly recalled working with him on Partridge Family.
“I actually think our true-life relationship, our closeness, helped us in the show,” Jones told the Hollywood Reporter.
David Cassidy’s smile could light up any room, and he had the most wonderful voice with such range to it! RIP!