David Cassidy, the former star of “The Partridge Family” TV hit of the 1970s and a reluctant teen idol to the boomer generation, died Tuesday evening of liver failure, his publicist confirmed. He was 67.
The singer and actor died in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after being hospitalized for multiple organ failure, including his liver and kidneys. His death was confirmed by Jo-Ann Geffen. The singer had also suffered from dementia in recent months, and had announced he would stop performing as the disease worsened.
“I will always be eternally grateful for the love and support you’ve shown me,” he said in a statement earlier this year . “I still love very much to play and perform live. But it’s much more difficult for me now. I’m not going to vanish or disappear forever.”
Cassidy had booked small acting gigs before he first shot to fame playing singer Keith Partridge on ABC’s “The Partridge Family,” a gentle sitcom take on the family-band genre. The series, which also starred Cassidy’s real-life stepmother, Shirley Jones, debuted in 1970 and ran for four seasons.
Based on the musical family known as the Cowsills, ‘The Partridge Family,” with its colorful antics, was a smash hit, particularly with teenage girls.
His cover-boy looks, supplemented by a bright smile and stylish clothes, could be found on millions of teen bedroom walls, and the series launched a successful career for Cassidy as a pop singer and actor.
Cassidy sang on more than a dozen band and solo albums during his “Partridge Family” years. Some of their songs, including “I Think I Love You” and “I Woke Up In Love This Morning,” became major hits, and he performed in sold-out stadium tours.
Cassidy was born in New York City on April 12, 1950. His father, Jack Cassidy, was a Tony Award winning stage performer and his mother, Evelyn Ward, an actress. He was raised largely by grandparents and as his own fame grew, Cassidy said his relationship with his father deteriorated.
“He was a fabulous guy. I worshipped him,” Cassidy said. “But this is somebody who was obsessed with success.”
His father died in an apartment fire in West Hollywood, Calif., in 1976. His mother died in 2012.
Cassidy was never entirely comfortable with his squeaky-clean image and the fan frenzy over “The Partridge Family.” He was more attracted to edgier rock fare, and the teenage mold did not fit his aspirations. Perhaps in response, he posed nude for an Annie Leibovitz photo that appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1972.
“What was tough was the way people my own age would perceive me as this image that was created of this sweet, innocent boy next door, which was the antithesis of the teenage life I had lived,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1995.
“I hitched up to Haight-Ashbury in the Summer of Love, you know? And I was very much politically aligned with that whole mentality, the whole ideology of that generation, the music, the culture, the behavior.”
He added, “It seemed whenever I’d read my name, it would be David ‘former teen idol sex symbol’ Cassidy.’ I used to think, ‘Well, I guess I’m going to have to do something more significant in my life, like David “convicted felon” Cassidy or something,’ anything that would erase that convenient label.’”
Cassidy’s popularity led to some low points, including a 1974 London show where a girl was killed in a crush of fans at the front of the stage.
After leaving the Partridge fold, he went on to record more solo albums and star in several Broadway productions, including “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Blood Brothers.” In 1990, he returned to the U.S. pop charts with the single “Lying To Myself.”
Though he continued to perform late into his career, Cassidy struggled in his personal life. After three DUIs in five years, his then-wife Sue Shifrin-Cassidy filed for divorce, he declared bankruptcy and was charged with a hit-and-run in 2015. Two earlier marriages also ended in divorce.
“Until I really dealt with a lot of the demons in my life — the fear and self-doubt and unresolved issues with my old man — I could never feel fulfilled and happy,” he told the Times in 2000. “I tended to try and numb the pain, just tried to forget.”
In February, he announced that he was suffering from memory loss due to dementia, and would stop touring to focus on his personal life.
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The decision came after a concert in Agoura Hills, Calif., when he struggled to remember familiar lyrics. TMZ reported at the time that the singer seemed intoxicated during the show, posting video that showed him forgetting lyrics and nearly falling off the stage. During an appearance this year on the “Dr. Phil Show,” Cassidy discussed his problems with alcohol but denied drinking before the show.
Cassidy said that his grandfather and mother had also struggled with dementia.
“A part of me always knew this was coming,” he said.
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Cassidy is survived by a son; Beau; a daughter, actress Katie Cassidy; and three half-brothers, Shaun, Patrick and Ryan.
(Times staff writers Nardine Saad and Alene Tchekmedyian contributed to this report.)
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