Last December, as he promoted his first Christmas album in his 48-year career, David Cassidy was feeling incredibly thankful. “I have kids that are 6, 7, 8 years old who walk up to me [and start singing] ‘C’mon, Get Happy,’” he said, mimicking how the youngsters perform the Partridge Family theme song for him. “How grateful could you be?” he pondered. “My fans are everything.”
Eleven months later, the singer-actor, 67, would need all the support they could give him after he was taken to a Fort Lauderdale hospital on Nov. 15 with kidney and liver failure — which would eventually lead to David’s death on November 21, 2017. His publicist Jo-Ann Geffen announced doctors put him in an induced coma, hoping to “keep him as well as they can until they can find another liver” for a lifesaving transplant, though David’s family was reportedly told to prepare for the worst.
David Cassidy and the cast of The Partridge Family.
Still, fans clung to hope, as the former teen idol had survived so many battles in his past, from his triumphant but complicated rise to fame to his struggles with alcohol abuse and the onset of dementia, which he went public with earlier this year. “I give him credit,” Chip Deffaa, David’s co-author of his autobiography C’Mon, Get Happy: Fear and Loathing on the Partridge Family Bus, exclusively tells Closer. “David would always find a way to come back.”
David was born the son of actor Jack Cassidy and Broadway star Evelyn Ward, but his parents weren’t there for him much when he was growing up. “Fame happened so suddenly” for David, who was 20 when The Partridge Family premiered, Chris says. “He had the biggest-selling record of 1970, and there are fans who still to this day, he was their first crush. He had the biggest fan club and he couldn’t go out in public without being mobbed. He had success, but a lot of his life was sad and lonely.”
Alcoholism ran on both sides of his family, but David said the disease didn’t wreak havoc on his life until his mom started succumbing to dementia in 2005. “Her last week I was probably drinking 24 hours a day,” he told Closer in 2014 about Evelyn’s 2012 death. In the aftermath, his 23-year marriage to Sue Shifrin ended as their son, Beau, now 26, was “becoming a young man,” David said. “It all hit me at the same time. I felt very lost.” (David had daughter Katie, 31, with model Sherry Williams, but the two “never had a relationship,” he admits.) He racked up three DUI charges in a span of three years but swore he was “64 days sober” at a March 15, 2014, concert. “Alcohol does not define me,” he assured Closer. “It will no longer be a problem.”
David Cassidy and his daughter Katie Cassidy at the 2007 Family TV Awards.
At press time, however, the star’s former demons had left his body weak and his family clinging to hope that their idol had another comeback in him. “He was more talented than he realized,” Chris insists, noting that while David’s past few years have been challenging, his son had balanced the darkness with much joy. “Beau’s a good kid who’s building his career as an actor and singer. That gives David some satisfaction,” Chris explains.
As David put it, “When you’re responsible for a human being who is really good — caring, loving, sensitive — there’s a lot to be proud of.”
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