Partridge Family star David Cassidy died Tuesday at the age of 67, the New York Times reports. The cause of death was organ failure, according to his publicist.
Cassidy was born in New York City in 1950. He debuted as an actor on Broadway in a short-lived 1969 musical called The Fig Leaves are Falling, which lasted long enough to earn him a screen test in Los Angeles. After moving to California, Cassidy booked small roles on several TV shows before being cast as Keith Partridge, the oldest of five children in a family musical act, on ABC’s The Partridge Family. (His stepmother Shirley Jones played his mother on the show.)
The show, which ran for four seasons and turned Cassidy into a teen idol, was produced by Screen Gems Television, the same company behind The Monkees, and as with that other show about a fictional band, merchandising and record deals were very much part of the package. In the case of The Partridge Family, none of the cast members were originally supposed to do more than lip-sync their songs, but Cassidy talked his way into the recording sessions and he and his stepmother became the two members of the Partridge Family who actually sang.
The Partridge Family yielded several hit records, including the 1970 #1 hit “I Think I Love You,” and Cassidy launched a solo career, charting in his own right with “Cherish” in 1972. By the time his television show was cancelled after four seasons, he’d played sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden and Wembley Stadium. But he was uneasy with the commercialization of his own image, telling one interviewer, “I’m exploited by people who put me on the back of cereal boxes.”
After The Partridge Family ended, Cassidy stopped touring and worked as a recording artist only. He eventually returned to acting, picking up an Emmy nomination in 1978. In his later years, he faced struggles both with money and with alcohol, even as he began performing again was involved with several successful Las Vegas shows. He was married and divorced three times and is survived by a son and a daughter.
Here’s how Cassidy described being a teen idol in a 1972 Rolling Stone interview:
It’s a high going out on that stage. You look around and it’s all there for you, people loving you like that. My friends are there with me, I’m doing what I love to do most, singing and I’m singing for people who would rather have me sing than anybody else in the world.
“There's one song I do, ‘I Woke Up in Love This Morning,’ and I find a little place where I can sort of point to them. And they each think I mean them, and I do.