David Cassidy Dies Young At 67, Battled Chronic Substance Abuse, Dementia
My very first memory of ANYTHING was of colorful partridges dancing across a black background. The Partridge Family, a television show about a singing family led by Shirley Jones, was as iconic as it was corny. It ran from 1970-1974 – I was born at the end of 1972, which mean my first memory of the show’s opening and theme song occurred when I was no more than two years old.
I was far too young to get into the heartthrob that was David Cassidy, but thanks to later syndication, I soon became well aware of why he had been so popular with the girls. He sang, seemed sweet, and was drop-dead gorgeous.
Make no mistake – David was one of the most popular teen idols of the 20th century, continually followed by girls in droves, and receiving up to 25,000 fan letters a week. During his four years on the show, he recorded ten albums as a Partridge and also five solo albums – a fairly prolific body of work that you rarely encounter these days.
David played sellout concerts to mostly hysterical girls in huge arenas worldwide, including six shows at Wembley Stadium over just one weekend in 1973.
At a London show in 2014, 800 fans were injured in a crush and 30 were taken to a hospital. A 14-year-old girl, Bernadette Whelan, died four days later. Cassidy never got over it.
When David was first cast as 16-year-old Keith Partridge, he was already 20 years old. Keith was wholesome and family-approved, however, whereas David was…not so much.
He openly admitted in interviews that he enjoyed drugs, alcohol, and sex. In fact, as an attempt to shake his good boy image, he revealed these facts to Rolling Stone in 1972, appearing naked on the cover.
It not known whether David ever let up on his substance abuse over the years, but evidence points to the opposite – a well-publicized battle with both drugs and alcohol. Beginning in 2010 at age 50, he was arrest on three separate occasions for impaired driving (the second in 2013, the third in 2014) in addition to leaving the scene of an accident (2015.)
In 2015 he declared bankruptcy and was forced to auction off his $2 million mansion in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Even after the auction, he still faced debts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
David continued to perform regularly over the last few years, but the concerts became increasingly erratic. A critic who went to a 2010 concert believed he was either high on drugs or drunk.
Just this past year, he was again accused of being drunk on stage, but David himself said that it was dementia, not alcohol that made him stumble.
In 2017, he announced that he also had been diagnosed with dementia more than two years earlier. David knew very well the effects of this degenerative disease after dementia claimed the life of his mother, Evelyn.
David And George Michael: Something In Common
In an interesting twist, David revived his career in 1985 with the song “The Last Kiss” – another heartthrob, George Michael, sang backup. The year before, Michael had interviewed Cassidy for the British celebrity magazine Ritz. The interview took place at a restaurant, and the pair reportedly drank too much and had to reschedule the interview.
It may sound funny, but in light of Cassidy’s alcoholism and Michael’s polysubstance use, it feels more predictive than anything.
Michael died at age 53 last year on Christmas Day from an inflamed and enlarged heart, and both conditions can be caused by toxins and certain medications. Michael was long-rumored to engage in heroin use.
The latter, along with Michael’s fatty liver, is often caused by excessive alcohol use.
Like Cassidy, Michael also had a string of arrests that appeared to be related to substance use, including possession of Class C drugs (2006,) drug-impaired driving (2007), possession of Class A and C drugs (2008), possession of cannabis and with driving while unfit through drink or drugs.
Of note, Class A drugs in the UK include cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms, methadone, and methamphetamine.
Cassidy died on November 22 at age 67, less than a year after Michael, from liver and kidney failure. Liver failure is commonly caused by excessive alcohol and/or drug use, and for reasons unknown, kidneys malfunction in patients about half the time following liver failure.
I am not implicitly stating that substance abuse directly or even indirectly caused the deaths of these two icons, but I will say with confidence that it is entirely plausible. If it’s not obviously an overdose, as in the case of Prince, the real answers may not be so clear.
In the midst of an opioid epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of people each year, it is easy to overlook people like Cassidy and Michael, whose substance abuse may have led to their premature end, albeit a bit under the radar.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
You can read the full interview on the official David Cassidy website.
In Memory of David B. Cassidy (April 12, 1950 – November 21, 2017)