Tuesday, November 21, 2017

RIP David Cassidy

"I Think I Love You" /
The Partridge Family


I have been dreading this coming. Yeah, I weathered the early deaths -- Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Mama Cass, Keith Moon -- with a mantra of Too Young, Too Soon. Then came John Lennon's death -- torn from us by gun violence! I can only wish I was in the UK to attend Dusty Springfield's funeral. And then there's my belated grief at the cruel loss of Harry Nilsson, dying earlier than he should've (and never acknowledged as the genius he was). Ditto for Kirsty McColl.

But now here we are at the crossroads. I'm ruefully prepared (with mourning gowns and all) to be devastated when 60s icons like Paul McCartney or Ray Davies give up the ghost. I nervously expect we've got a few safe years for my 70s go-to guys Graham Parker, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, and Nick Lowe.

But David Cassidy? David F***KING Cassidy? He was only 67, ferchrissake. Taken down by dementia, arthritis, and a long history of substance abuse. At the height of his pop stardom in 1974, a teenage fan even died amid the frenzy at one of his concerts. He may have been a manufactured pop star, but the charisma  -- as this fangirl can attest -- was very very real.

In my personal fangirl history, David Cassidy has a whole chapter to himself. In 1970 -- just before The Partridge Family launched -- he riveted me with a guest spot on Bonanza, America's favorite TV series at the time. He was so cute, for once I paid no attention to Little Joe. When 16 Magazine --or was it Tiger Beat? -- announced that he was about to star in his own show, I was so primed for it. And when the Partridge Family finally debuted, it was so much more endearing than even I could have expected. For a few months there -- okay, maybe a year -- he occupied my every waking day and night.  And let's be honest, ladies -- do we not cherish forever the objects of our pop obsessions?

I prefer to see David Cassidy as one of pop music's tragedies. Coming from a showbiz family (dad Jack Cassidy, stepmom Shirley Jones, his Partridge Family mom) he had all the lucky breaks. His slim talent vaulted him into this stratosphere where only the strong survive. And perhaps he was never strong enough.

But on the other hand -- God, he was cute. That sparkle in his eyes, that suggestion of a dimple in his smile. The glossy flop of brown hair. Nobody could rock hip-hugger bellbottoms like that young man.

Like so many girls of my time, I fell for it.

And hearing that he is no longer with us? I am, against all reason, peculiarly devastated.


Anonymous said...

agree 100%

Glenn said...

Nice tribute Holly.

I won't fake being a huge fan of David Cassidy (how many guys
were?) or even having watched Partridge Family (although I
did once fry chicken in Wesson oil just to see if it all comes
back except for one tablespoon, which it does not, btw.)

But your recent tribute to Cassidy, and then last month
recalling John Lennon, combined with one you posted on
"Superstar" back in 2012... all kind of came together in a
roundabout way with my own teen-years infatuation with Karen
Carpenter, and pushed me over the edge to ramble upon your
blog with this absurdly long comment. Hope it's ok. It was
inspired by what you wrote about all three of them.

The obvious part of the connection is Cassidy/Superstar:
If David was the ultimate teenie-bopper magnet of his time,
then Superstar has to be the ultimate song about being a
groupie-girl. Who among your fangirl friends didn't have a
thing about some skinny rock star, David, or Bobbie, or etc,
wailing away on his Stratocaster?

And who among fanboys -- although, for guys, this
is totally different because we would never admit
this under any circumstance short of waterboarding --
didn't secretly daydream to be Player of the Sad Guitar,
breaker of Karen's heart? [And also, of course, *cough*
hotelroom *cough*.]

So while David's sparkly eyes and hair-mop and all that stuff
you mentioned was doing its teen-idol crazymaking on you
and your girlfriends, Karen was having a similar effect in a
low-key way on a certain subset of the nerdly thick-glasses
guy crowd like me.

I wasn't even a Carpenters fan! Never owned a single album or
even listened to much of their music, it wasn't a style that
appealed to me that much. But I sure loved Karen and that
Voice. Who cared what she was singing? It was sooo perfect,
so lush, so honest. All those adjectives in Carpenters reviews
can not touch the experience of listening to that girl sing.

And yeah, I admit of course, my infatuation with Karen included
a solid dose of that cheap physical stuff that guys always
get drawn into... the girlish bangs, the willowy figure,
the 100 watt girl-next-door smile... but man, that voice,
that voice... it was just magical.

And imo, Superstar was the ultimate vehicle for it. She was you,
Holly, there in the car alone (well, ok, maybe she had the dog
in the back seat too) pining for her Sad Guitarist, but alas,
he wasn't really there, it was "just the radiooooooo....".
Man, that long ooooo seems to go on forever, with her dead-on
perfect pitch and the vibrato that was just enough but never
too much.

Totally over the top Martian. There will never again be a
voice like that.

And then it was gone.

They talk about "flashbulb memories", where were you when you
heard about this or that worldly life-changing event. Maybe
Lennon's assassination was one for you. It probably sounds
ridiculous but I have two: JFK Dallas, as a 4th grader at
12:30 PM, and the day Karen died. Still remember exactly
where I was, tooling up Route 34 in Holmdel, NJ, winter '83,
returning to work after a typical Friday lunch with the group
at The Red Roof Inn, a voice comes on the radio:

"This sad news just in... Karen Carpenter has died."

Total shock, out of the blue. The whole back story about
her struggle with anorexia, if it was out there at all, was
way below my radar. Never heard a thing about it. Just,
'boom', she's dead. And The Voice was silent.

Drove home after work, listening to Superstar about five
times -- the only Carpenters track I even owned, on 8-track.
Drank myself into a stupor on some bottle o' crap that was
stuck to the shelf in the cupboard over the fridge, don't even
remember what it was. Cooking sherry or something. Next day,
and all weekend, still remember, shaking my hung-over head
in disbelief and sadness. So young, so talented. And so
girl-next-door beautiful.

At least, We of the Thick Glasses thought so.

We miss you Karen.