David Cassidy: 'Partridge Family' star who became a teen idol of the Seventies

The singer and actor was best known for chart hits 'I Think I Love You', 'Cherish' and 'How Can I Be Sure?'

Former teen heartthrob David Cassidy dies at 67

David Cassidy once sat across the table from Donald Trump, saw him point a finger and declare “You’re fired” in front of millions of television viewers in the United States. However, long parallel careers as a singer and an actor ensured he would remain famous for rather more than being the first contestant to depart the 2011 series of Celebrity Apprentice.

Cassidy, who has died at the age of 67 after suffering organ failure, had best-selling singles and albums and enjoyed sell-out stadium tours around the world during the 1970s. He had become a teen heartthrob after breaking through as an actor who also sang in the role of Keith Partridge in the American musical-sitcom TV series The Partridge Family (1970-74).

Showbusiness ran in his real-life New York City family. His father Jack Cassidy was an actor-singer of Irish descent and his mother, Evelyn Ward, was an actress. They divorced in 1954 yet did not tell him for two years, claiming they felt he was too young to understand. His father remarried and his new stepmother, Shirley Jones, went on to play Keith Partridge’s mother.

Cassidy had been spotted performing in a Broadway musical, The Fig Leaves Are Falling, which ran for only four nights in 1969. He also had minor roles in Ironside and Bonanza, and after gaining a foothold in The Partridge Family he persuaded the producers to let him sing. “I Think I Love You”, released under the show’s name, topped the US chart and was the best-selling single of 1970, reaching No 18 in the UK.

His solo successes began the following year with “Cherish”, which Cassidy took to the No 1 spot which the original version, by The Association, had achieved in 1966. The “five-year-gap” format worked again in 1972 when he reworked a No 4 hit from 1967 by The Young Rascals, “How Can I Be Sure?”, which went to No 1 in Britain.

Cassidy’s popularity on this side of the Atlantic burgeoned in competition with other teen idols such as Donny Osmond and Marc Bolan. When he packed Wembley Stadium in 1973, the term “Cassidymania” surfaced in the press. But a year later, at his show in London’s White City Stadium, a 14-year-old, Bernadette Whelan, collapsed amid a crush in which 800 were injured. Her death four days later would, he said, “haunt me until the day I die”.

The star at the height of ‘Cassidymania’ in 1974 

“Daydreamer” delivered his second UK chart-topper in 1973, one of nine Top 20 hits between 1972 and 1975. Sales then fell away, although George Michael’s backing vocals helped “The Last Kiss” reach No 6 in 1985 after the Wham! singer hailed Cassidy as a “major influence”.

There were intermittent forays into music and touring, with the albums Old Dog New Trick (1998) and Then & Now (2001) finding a nostalgic niche. Cassidy also returned to acting but poor reviews for his role in Little Johnny Jones led to his being replaced by Osmond when the show reached Broadway. He also trod the boards in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Time and Blood Brothers, as well as playing Bobby Darin in The Rat Pack Is Back and writing and appearing in At The Copa with Sheena Easton in Las Vegas.

In 2014, three years after he told the future President Trump “I think you’re making a mistake”, he was stopped three times for drink-driving before confirming he was an alcoholic. In 2015 he was diagnosed with dementia. Three marriages ended in divorce and he leaves a daughter, Katie, by his second wife, and son, Beau, by another relationship.

David Bruce Cassidy, singer and actor, born 12 April 1950, died 21 November 2017

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