I was tempted to write about the royal engagement of Prince Harry to an American – especially as I have a lot of experience of a Brit marrying a U.S. citizen. However, as the latest royal wedding plans will no doubt dominate the headlines for months, I decided to mark the sad passing of one of my childhood idols – David Cassidy.
In England in the 1970s, pre-teens like myself used to have a crush on one of the two unthreatening, young looking American singers – Donny Osmond or David Cassidy. I was firmly in the Cassidy camp of supporters.
One of my good friends, an American who married an English man and now lives in the U.K. in a reverse of my story, shared my innocent passion for David Cassidy. I have fond memories of us going to see our childhood idol 12 years ago when his tour took him to London. The audience was full of 40- and 50-something women, all singing along to "Daydreamer" and "Cherish."
Although he had noticeably aged, he was still slender and full of charisma. Of course, this was before the divorce from Sue Shifrin, his third wife who appeared on stage with him, and the tour was during a period when he seemed to have control of his demons. Recent news reports have testified to his decline after 2010, which sadly included alcoholism, arrests for drunk-driving, bankruptcy, divorce and the dementia that ran in his family and ultimately caused his death at the age of 67.
Much has been written about this actor and singer who became a teen idol thanks to The Partridge Family, but by most accounts, he always hated his superstar status. Part of the appeal of David Cassidy was how at 20 years old his youthful looks enabled him to pass for the wholesome 16-year-old Keith Partridge who toured with his siblings and widowed mother Shirley in a brightly painted bus, performing music as a family.
To young girls it was easy to confuse his wholesome TV persona with the real thing. Cassidy had been hired on the show as an actor rather than a singer. But when his singing voice turned out to be so good, he was drafted in to add real-life vocals to the songs that were lip-synced every week.
He had huge hits with both Partridge material and his own records. The first Partridge single, "I Think I Love You" (1970), reportedly sold 4 million copies. And some of Cassidy’s own records, notably "Cherish" (1971), "How Can I Be Sure" (1972) and "Daydreamer" (1973), were inescapable on early-70s radio on both sides of the Atlantic. For lots of Partridge family trivia, see www.biography.com/news/partridge-family-fun-facts.
David was the only child of Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward, both actors. His parents divorced when he was 6, and at 11 he moved to Los Angeles to live with Jack and his second wife, the actor Shirley Jones, who played his mother in The Partridge Family. Interestingly, he and Jones were the only cast members who sang for real on the Partridge Family albums.
One of Cassidy’s biggest markets was the U.K., but in 1974, a 14-year-old fan was tragically and fatally crushed in the crowd at one of his London gigs. This seemed to mark a turning point for his teen idol status. He announced his retirement from The Partridge Family, took a long break from touring and focused on acting and recording his music.
While he had his fair share of difficult times, I will always remember his cheerful, youthful persona, and all those great songs of my youth. He once said "If you’re not a daydreamer, you haven’t got any imagination."
Goodbye, David Cassidy, and God bless America!