By Keith Sharp
In the early 1970’s, every white American teenage guy wanted to be just like him and every white teenage American girl fantasized about being with him. The `him’ in question is David `Bruce’ Cassidy who enjoyed phenomenal teenybopper success as Keith Partridge, lead vocalist of the fictional six-member Partridge Family, (based on a real family band, The Cowsills) ,the focal point of a hit television series between 1970 and 1974.
Cassidy passed away Tuesday from acute kidney and liver failure. He was 67 years old.
At that time, Cassidy seemed to have it all. Good looks, a hit television series, a string of hit record albums, either solo or with The Partridge Family, a number one single with “I Think I Love You” and a global female fan base which triggered riots wherever he toured.
The son of singer/actor Jack Cassidy and step son of singer/actress Shirley Jones, who also appeared as the matriarch on The Partridge Family, it was inevitable that Cassidy would also pursue an acting career. After a series of cameo appearances in TV staples like Ironside, Adam-12 and Bonanza in 1969, Cassidy scored the role of Keith Partridge in 1970 and his star was in its ascendance. Hired initially just because of his looks, Cassidy convinced show producers that he could actually sing, a point proven when “I Think I Love You” became one of the biggest selling tracks of the year.
Away from his Partridge persona, Cassidy capitalized on his TV popularity by pulling massive crowds in The U.S, Australia and the UK. In one weekend alone he attracted two 56.000 sell-out crowds at the Houston Astrodome in 1972. His appearance at New York’s Madison Square Garden sold out in five minutes and the riots he sparked at Melbourne Australia’s cricket grounds (attendance 33,000) had officials threatening to deport him.
Unfortunately, Cassidy’s popularity proved to be his undoing. A 1974 concert at London’s White City Stadium triggered a stampede in which 800 people received injuries, and one 14-year old girl, Bernadette Whelan was killed in the melee. Cassidy was so shocked that he cancelled all future tour dates and even quit his role in The Partridge Family.
Cassidy was soon to find out that once the TV series was gone, teenage fans are a fickle bunch and as his record sales and concert appearances plummeted, his popularity was quickly, usurped. Donny Osmond being on new heartthrob who actually replaced Cassidy in a Broadway production of Joseph And The Technicolor Dreamcoat.
So what went wrong? Bad management is one speculation. Cassidy wanted to be taken seriously as a rock star but he could never shake that heartthrob image and his attempts at recording a more mature sound were treated with disdain. Even though Cassidy was the first artist to record “I Write The Songs” which later became a trademark hit for Barry Manilow.
Cassidy also recorded a single “The Last Kiss” with a young George Michael and co-wrote “Prayin 4 A Miracle” with John Wetton for Asia’s comeback `Then And Now’ 1989 release. But for the most part, Cassidy was forced to rely on his fading popularity to appear in occasional television cameos, failing Broadway productions and one relatively prominent role in the movie Popstar. He even suffered the indignity of being the first person fired by Donald Trump during his 2011 appearance on Celebrity Apprentice.
Financial failures and three failed marriages led to problems which resulted in a 2015 bankruptcy. Cassidy also admitted to alcohol problems and suffered a series of DIU infringements which eventually seriously affected his health. Even more acute was the onset of dementia, forcing Cassidy to forget lyrics and come clean with his situation during a February 2017 television interview when he was concerned fans still thought he had a drinking problem.
Suffering from kidney and liver failure, Cassidy was admitted to hospital November 17th and although hospital staff battled to keep Cassidy alive while they found a liver transplant donor, their efforts proved to be in vain.
Through his later years, Cassidy continued to play the cabaret theatre circuit, old fans still showing their loyalty, and to his credit, Cassidy still retained his looks even though alcohol took its toll on his body. Former Partridge Family member, Danny Bonaduce, who briefly wrote for Music Express in 1991, told this writer that he had gone out on tour with Cassidy, him doing a stand-up comedy shtick as an opening act and he told this writer the entire experience was rather sad. “They didn’t come to see David Cassidy, they came to see Keith Partridge,” noted Bonaduce. “When he sang the Partridge Family songs they were fine, but when he tried to do something else, they didn’t want to know.”