“Partridge Family” star David Cassidy died Tuesday after suffering liver and kidney failure, his publicist confirmed. He was 67.
“David died surrounded by those he loved, with joy in his heart and free from the pain that had gripped him for so long,” JoAnn Geffen said. “Thank you for the abundance of love and support you have shown him these many years.”
Cassidy was admitted to a Fort Lauderdale, Fla. hospital Wednesday, though his condition was not reported until this past Saturday. Geffen told multiple news outlets over the weekend that Cassidy was suffering from multiple organ failure.
Born into a show business family, Cassidy rocketed to stardom on ABC’s “The Partridge Family,” a sitcom about a widow (played by Cassidy’s real-life stepmother Shirley Jones) and her five children who form a rock band and tour the country. The cast also featured Susan Dey, later of “L.A. Law” fame, as sibling Laurie Partridge and Danny Bonaduce as sibling Danny Partridge.
As eldest son Keith Partridge, Cassidy became a global heartthrob as the face — and voice — of the Partridge Family’s biggest hit, “I Think I Love You.” The song spent three weeks on top of the Billboard chart at a time when other hit singles included James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “The Tears of a Clown.”
“In two years, David Cassidy has swept hurricane-like into the pre-pubescent lives of millions of American girls,” Rolling Stone magazine noted in 1972. “Leaving: six and a half million long-playing albums and singles; 44 television programs; David Cassidy lunch boxes; David Cassidy bubble gum; David Cassidy coloring books and David Cassidy pens; not to mention several millions of teen magazines, wall stickers, love beads, posters and photo albums.”
After “The Partridge Family” ended in 1974, Cassidy devoted himself to recording and songwriting, but struggled to match the success of his early-20s, with none of his subsequent albums — including the awkwardly titled “Didn’t You Used To Be?” — making a significant dent in the U.S. charts.
Cassidy did score a minor hit with “I Write the Songs” before Barry Manilow’s chart-topping version and found success overseas with “The Last Kiss,” featuring backing vocals from Cassidy admirer George Michael. He made occasional stage and television appearances, including an Emmy-nominated performance on “Police Story.”
Meanwhile, “The Partridge Family” remained popular in re-runs and Cassidy, who kept his dark bangs and boyish appearance well into middle age, frequently turned up for reunions and spoke often about his early success.
“So many people come up to me and talk to me about the impact it (the show) had,” he told Arsenio Hall in 1990.
Even while “The Partridge Family” was still in primetime, Cassidy worried that he was mistaken for the wholesome character he played. He posed naked for Rolling Stone in 1972, when he confided that he had dropped acid as a teenager and smoked pot in front of the magazine’s reporter as he watched an episode of “The Partridge Family” and mocked his own acting. Cassidy maintained an exhausting schedule during the show’s run, filming during the week and performing live shows over the weekend, but had plenty of time to indulge himself. In the memoir “Could It Be Forever,” he wrote of his prolific sex life and of rejecting Dey’s advances because she lacked the “slutty aspect of a female that I always found so attractive.”
Late in life, Cassidy struggled with numerous personal problems. He was charged with driving under the influence on three separate occasions between November 2010 and January 2014. After the third incident, he entered rehab and a California judge sentenced him to five years’ probation. Cassidy’s third wife, Sue Shifrin, filed for divorce in February of 2014 after 23 years of marriage.
In February 2015, Cassidy filed for bankruptcy, listing assets and debts of up to $10 million. That September, he was cited for leaving the scene of an accident in Florida.
This past February, Cassidy revealed to PEOPLE Magazine that he was battling dementia after he struggled to remember song lyrics and fell off the stage at a show in California. His mother, Broadway actress Evelyn Ward, died in 2012 after suffering from the same illness.
At the same concert, Cassidy announced he was retiring after 50 years in the entertainment industry, saying the grind of touring combined with arthritis had taken its toll.
Cassidy is survived by two children, musician Beau Cassidy and actress Katie Cassidy, with whom he acknowledged having a distant relationship.
“I wasn’t her father. I was her biological father but I didn’t raise her,” he told PEOPLE earlier this year. “She has a completely different life.”
Cassidy himself was estranged from his father, actor Jack Cassidy, and he would long express regret about Jack being mostly absent from his life after David’s parents split up when he was 5. David Cassidy stayed with his mother and by the early 1960s had moved to Los Angeles.
Kicked out of high school for truancy, David Cassidy dreamed of becoming an actor and had made appearances on “Bonanza,” “Ironside” and other programs before producers at ABC television asked him to audition for “The Partridge Family,” unaware that he could sing and intending at first to have him mime songs to someone else’s voice. Cassidy, who only learned during tryouts that Jones would play his mother, worried that Keith Partridge would be a “real comedown” from his previous roles.
“I mean, how much could an actor do with a line like, ‘Hi, Mom, I’m home from school,’ or ‘Please pass the milk?”‘ he wrote in his memoir. “I didn’t see how it could do much for me. After all, I wasn’t the star of it. Shirley had top billing; I was just one of the kids.”