David Cassidy – In Memoriam (1950-2017): A Pop Idol Lost

The first record that I ever bought was The Partridge Family – Greatest Hits. At eight years old, that seemed to be the smartest way to spend all of the money that I had saved up from the tooth fairy. When I was 11, I stopped speaking to my mom for days after she saw David Cassidy on tour without me. I might have been the only kid who grew up in the 2000s who knew about The Partridge Family — let alone been their biggest fan — but it didn’t matter to me, because I couldn’t seem to get enough of the music, the show, and the heartthrob that was David Cassidy.

A New York native, Cassidy began his career in a very short-lived Broadway show titled The Fig Leaves Are Falling. Less than a year after its abysmal four-show run, Cassidy was cast in the now-classic, musical sitcom, The Partridge Family, alongside his real life stepmother, Shirley Jones. It did not take long for the adorable family show and its irresistible pop music to catch on. The Partridge Family’s debut single, “I Think I Love You,” almost instantly became a hit, even though it was released only a month after the television show’s premiere.

“Cassidy-mania” had officially taken over by 1972, young girls putting his picture up on their bedroom walls and fainting if they were lucky enough to see him perform live. The Partridge Family was nominated for a Grammy Award the year before and their television show was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in both 1971 and 1972. The then 22-year-old was a household name, a pop idol, and a teeny-bopper God in the eyes of teenage girls. Although he was massively successful, he was too humble, too authentic, and too young to truly take in his stardom. He loved his life, but he also would have loved to have lived quietly in the hills of California, smoke marijuana, have a private life that was actually private, and play guitar.

It was in 1972 that David Cassidy’s controversial nude cover for Rolling Stone came out. In 2017, celebrities doing nude photoshoots is not so uncommon, and surely not as shocking as it was when he did it. But similar to Miley Cyrus twerking on Robin Thicke at MTV’s Video Music Awards in 2013, he wanted to rid his bubblegum pop image. That image, the Keith Partridge one, was exactly that: an image, a show that he put on and everyone expected him to represent. Annie Leibovitz’s naked photo shoot with him for Rolling Stone was him baring it all – figuratively and literally. Cassidy was attempting to rebel and shed his image, but that backfired. Nonetheless, he moved on, because he was still David Cassidy: the young man with so much potential.

Over last 40 years, he had high and low points in his career, both in music and television, such as his Emmy Award nomination for his guest spot on Police Story. Fame may have taken its toll on him, but the love for him never wavered. How could you give up on someone who had such an influence on the world? Someone who always had good intentions? Someone who brought music and happiness to so many? He was much more than his famous parents, much more than his luscious hair, much more than his struggles that occurred throughout his life. He was a humble, multi-talented man full of rhythm and love.

David Cassidy passed away on Nov. 21 due to liver and kidney failure, barely a year after announcing to the world that he was living with dementia. It is difficult to think that this pop icon who was adored is no longer around to sing about young love or stir up controversy. Although, all of what he had faced throughout his life does not take away his success or his talent. Death is inevitable, but that does not make it hurt any less. To this day, there is a stack of about 200 Partridge Family trading cards on my dresser, a Partridge Family magnet on my refrigerator, and Cassidy’s 1971 LIFE magazine cover framed on my wall right above my record player; of which I will be playing that one, dear to my heart, greatest hits album for weeks to come. I will continue to listen to that record and think about what an influence David Cassidy was, and how I couldn’t have spent my tooth fairy money in a better way. Rest in peace.