Singer, actor and teen idol David Cassidy passed away yesterday at the age of 67. It seems so strange that the eternally youthful presence behind one of the most enduring pop hits of the ’70s, The Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You,” would not be with us–never mind having recently retired from the road to care for himself following a diagnosis of the dementia that affected his mother and grandfather.
In fact, it was only just over a year ago that Cassidy took the stage at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ, not too far from where Second Disc HQ was first established. And, as chance would have it, some friends of the site, New York power-pop quartet The Hell Yeah Babies, got the chance to open for him.
“Watching the admiration that David’s voice and music continued to draw from the audience was staggering,” lead singer Mike Pfeiffer remembered of that night. “To see people come up to him with pictures of their childhood bedrooms covered in David Cassidy posters struck me as the image that every musician starts their career with.”
Indeed, it wasn’t hard to find a teen in your life during the 1970s that wasn’t positively gaga over Cassidy, best known as the sunny, feathered-haired Keith Partridge on ABC’s The Partridge Family (1970-1974). As the lead singer of a band of siblings traveling with their widowed mother (played by Cassidy’s real-life stepmother, Shirley Jones), the show kicked off a host of imitators and put the peppy “I Think I Love You” to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks at the end of 1970. More hits followed, including Top 10 tracks “Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted” and “I’ll Meet You Halfway”; within the year, Cassidy–the sole cast member who regularly appeared on the recordings, with producer Wes Farrell recruiting members of The Wrecking Crew to back him up–was also recording on his own, with a cover of The Association’s “Cherish” hitting the Top 10 as well. (Cassidy is underrated as a vocal interpreter, taking songs like The Young Rascals’ “How Can I Be Sure,” Harry Nilsson’s “The Puppy Song” and The Beatles’ “Please Please Me” to the upper reaches of the charts. His version of Beach Boy Bruce Johnston’s “I Write The Songs” just missed the U.K. Top 10 several months before Barry Manilow made it a No. 1 in America.)
The expectations of a teen idol are never fun to endure, and Cassidy grappled with them largely on his own terms, famously posing nude on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1972 and declaring “Aw, shit, man: take drugs” in the salacious accompanying interview. By the mid-’70s, The Partridge Family was over and Cassidy was recording less; his 1976 album Getting It In The Street wasn’t released in America until three years later, and 1985’s follow-up Romance (featuring the catchy U.K. Top 10 “The Last Kiss”) wasn’t released in his home country until Real Gone Music put it out on CD in 2012. But he was never far from his enraptured audiences, happily leading them through the songs they grew up with.
“His journey wasn’t always easy,” Pfeiffer said, “but watching him share the music that he loved with the people who kept Keith Partridge in their hearts was a testament to David’s unquenchable fire for performing.” May this be how we remember him, today and every day.