As often happens with those who carry the blessing/curse of teen idol-dom, it became easy to forget just how big a star he was, capable of carrying a hit TV show and, despite being signed only as an actor, taking over the lead vocals of the show’s Family Band conceit himself and becoming enough of a draw to sell out 50,000 seat stadiums on his own.
Like many who were blessed/cursed before and since, he yearned for more than fame–wanted to write, produce, be taken seriously.
He did the first two, and quite well (check his The Higher They Climb for a fine version of the Beach Boys’ “Darlin'” and the original version of “I Write the Songs,” which went to #11 in the UK (he and the song’s composer, Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, co-produced) before it became forever associated with Barry Manilow. Unable the achieve the third goal, however, he sank into a classic spiral of alcoholism and hubris. Lynn Goldsmith’s invaluable book of rock and roll photography carries an anecdote of her and Cassidy walking on a beach somewhere and him telling her he was legend in his own time.
In your own mind maybe, she thought.
But he was probably more right than she was. He was a legend in his own time. That shouldn’t be devalued just because he didn’t transcend his time.
The Partridge Family was the cool show of my elementary and junior high years, so cool that I was able to follow along despite the frequent absence of a working TV at my house. That was how much other kids talked about it.
And, while Cassidy himself should have acknowledged the show being conceived around the Cowsills, and then yanked from them because of their boorish father, (DC’s real life step-mom, Shirley Jones, the on-screen Mrs. Partridge, became a big supporter of the group once she found out what had happened–which was after the show went off the air), he was a draw no Cowsill–or other Partridge–could have matched. Much as we all related to Danny Bonaduce’s character, we all knew, in our secret hearts, that the show could never have revolved around him.
For that you needed a star. David Cassidy was a star.
And, as far as I know, he and Ms. Jones (the only “Partridges” who actually sang on the records) are still only one of two Parent/Child vocal combos to hit #1 in Billboard.
The other one was named Sinatra.
Not bad company really, for a man who was, like all the greatest teen idols, a fine pop singer, as evidenced by a long, successful solo career that counted a handful of hits in the US (and as late as the nineties) and a near-dozen in the UK.
Besides which, anybody who hasn’t hit the natural high of that “Hey-y-y-y-y” a few times in their life, hasn’t lived as fully as they should have.
67 is too young to die of anything in a modern, developed country. It’s horribly young to die of complications brought on by dementia. I don’t doubt the years of self-abuse–abuse he brought on himself, in part, because it took him far too long to accept the kind of stardom that was in his bones and his stars–took their toll.
That’s not the worst you can say about a teen idol–that he wanted what his talent probably deserved.
Hope while the world is remembering tonight, it will also take a moment to listen.