David Cassidy, once a heartthrob to millions of moon-eyed girls worldwide who first discovered him on The Partridge Family, has died. He was 67.
“On behalf of the entire Cassidy family, it is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our father, our uncle, and our dear brother, David Cassidy,” his publicist JoAnn Geffen said Tuesday evening in a statement to EW. “David died surrounded by those he loved, with joy in his heart and free from the pain that had gripped him for so long. Thank you for the abundance and support you have shown him these many years.”
The actor, who had previously admitted publicly that he had problems with alcohol, succumbed to organ failure in a Florida hospital. He was also suffering from dementia.
Born in New York City to actors Evelyn Ward and Jack Cassidy, the younger Cassidy caught the acting and singing bug early and appeared in his first Broadway musical in 1969. It failed but his attempt at stardom didn’t: he did a screen test and ended up moving to Los Angeles where he made appearances in TV shows like Ironside, Medical Center, and Adam-12. Then came the career-changing opportunity to play Keith Partridge, the eldest son in an ABC sitcom that was loosely based on a popular family band called The Cowsills.
It wasn’t hard for Cassidy to get into character on The Partridge Family. His on-screen mom was played by Shirley Jones, his real-life stepmom after his dad divorced Ward when he was in grade school. And boy could they make beautiful music together: Cassidy and Jones, as well as the rest of the Partridge cast that included Susan Dey and Danny Bonaduce, would go on to record 10 albums and five solos during the series, selling millions of copies worldwide. Though the sitcom was beloved by fans, the handsome Cassidy was one of the show’s biggest draws. Membership in Cassidy’s fan club exploded — it was reportedly bigger than those for Elvis Presley and The Beatles — while his handsome visage was featured on posters, lunch boxes, and cereal boxes.
Cassidy’s concerts drew phenomenal crowds, though a gate stampede at a London show in 1974 led to the death of a teenage girl. Hundreds more were injured. Devastated by the fan’s injury, Cassidy declined to attend her funeral for fear his presence would turn into a sideshow.
After ABC canceled The Partridge Family in 1974, Cassidy refocused his energy on live theater and led an original production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He would briefly return to the small screen, starring in an episode of Police Story in 1978 that would earn him an Emmy nomination, but by the ’80s he reportedly announced that he was broke.
“I’m an optimist,” Cassidy was quoted as saying. “I mean, you have to be with my career. I’ve never gone out and changed my style to suit the times. I have always stayed true to myself by using the work ethic my father instilled in me, to strive for the best musically, theatrically, as well as in producing and writing. He taught me to be fearless about revealing the frailties and strengths of the human experience. Bringing that human element to my work is the most important thing I can do as an entertainer.”
The singer found musical success again in 1990 with the single “Lyin’ to Myself,” followed by “No Bridge I Wouldn’t Cross” in 1998. He starred in the $75 million show EFX at the MGM Grand in 1996, and his 2001 album, Then and Now went platinum. In 2011, he starred on Celebrity Apprentice but was the first to be fired by Donald Trump. He filed for bankruptcy in 2015, the same year he was charged with a hit-and-run in Florida. He also received several DUIs, which led him to publicly admitting he was battling alcoholism.
Offstage, Cassidy became a spokesperson for various Alzheimer’s organizations since his mother died from severe dementia. Earlier this year, he told PEOPLE he was suffering from the same disease. “I was in denial, but a part of me always knew this was coming,” he said.
Thrice divorced, Cassidy is survived by his daughter-actress Katie Cassidy (Arrow), born in 1986 from a relationship with Sherry Williams Benedon, and a son Beau with his third wife, Sue Shifrin, as well as half-brothers Shau, Patrick and Ryan Cassidy.