#1056: Rock Me Baby by David Cassidy
David Bruce Cassidy was born in 1950 in New York City, and was raised by parents who were both actors. His father, Jack Cassidy, was bipolar, was an alcoholic and had numerous same-sex relationships outside of his marriage, including one with Cole Porter. David Cassidy’s mother, Eveyln Ward, made her acting debut on Broadway in 1943, and appeared in about ten TV shows. She retired from acting in 1967. She divorced Jack Cassidy in 1954, and remarried in 1961, while Jack married Shirley Jones in ’56. But the Cassidy children weren’t told about the divorce for two years, while their parents hid the fact behind extensive touring and acting schedules. This, according to David Cassidy’s 1994 memoir.
In 1967 David Cassidy headed for San Francisco, explored the hippie culture, and did some drugs. He was inspired by Jimi Hendrix. In 1969 David Cassidy appeared in a Broadway play titled Fig Leaves Are Falling, written by Alan “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” Sherman. The play inspired by Sherman’s divorce after 21 years closed after four performances. However, David Cassidy was spotted by a casting director and moved to Hollywood and got a contract with Universal Studios. In 1969 he appeared in episodes of Bonanza, Ironside, Adam-12, Medical Center and Marcus Welby M.D.
In 1970, Cassidy was cast as Keith Partridge on TV show The Partridge Family. The show was a musical sitcom based on the real life story of the musical family, the Cowsills. Also starring in The Partridge Family was Shirley Jones, David Cassidy’s real life step-mother. In the TV show Keith Partridge is the oldest of five children. They rehearse in their garage, drive around in a school bus, and perform in concert. In August 1970, ahead of the TV shows’ first episode in September ’70, the group released “I Think I Love You”. The cast members of The Partridge Family sang on the record, but the instruments were played in the studio by members of the Wrecking Crew. The song peaked at #1 for two weeks on CKLG in Vancouver (BC) in November 1970, and for three weeks into December ’70 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1971 The Partridge Family released “Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted”, which climbed to #4 in Vancouver (BC) in March ’71, and #6 on the Hot 100. Their third release, “I’ll Meet You Halfway” also went Top Ten in the USA and #12 on CKVN in Vancouver (BC) in June ’71. A fourth single, “I Woke Up In Love This Morning”, became their fourth song to make the Top 20 within twelve months. A fifth single, “It’s One Of Those Nights”, peaked at #20 in January 1972 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1971 The Partridge Family was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best New Artist category, which they lost to The Carpenters. In 1971 and 1972 The Partridge Family TV series was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in the category of Best TV Show – Musical/Comedy.
Meanwhile, David Cassidy was also releasing his own singles as a solo recording artist. His hit singles in 1972 included a cover of The Association hit from 1966 titled “Cherish”, and The Rascals 1967 hit “How Can I Be Sure”. His third hit single in ’72 was “Rock Me Baby”.
“Rock Me Baby” is about a guy who left home when he was twelve years old. He is a drifter who moves from town to town. He is upfront that he has no interest in a committed relationship. However, he tells the women he meets that he’s “come looking for a little excursion.” This is code for a one-night stand, and once he gets into bed with some eager young woman, he says “Ooh, rock me baby…” He refers to himself as her “midnight man.” The song is generally reflective of a rather narcissistic guy who wants some action with no strings attached.
“Rock Me Baby” peaked at #3 in Omaha (NE), #4 in St. Louis, #5 in Sarasota (FL), #6 in Vancouver (BC), #7 in Honolulu, and #9 in Seattle. It peaked at #11 on the UK singles chart. But the song stalled at #38 on the Billboard Hot 100. David Cassidy charted seven songs into the top eleven positions on the UK singles chart between 1972 and 1975. While he only cracked the Top Ten of the Billboard Hot 100 once.
By 1972 the pressures of being a teen idol, and the need to change his image from being a bubblegum pop singer, caused David Cassidy to decide to pose nude in an issue of Rolling Stone. Then 22-year-old Cassidy said in an interview published by Rolling Stone in May 1972 “There’ll be a time when this whole thing will be over. I won’t do concerts anymore, I won’t wake up in the morning feeling drained, and I won’t be working a punch card schedule. I’ve had to sing when I was hoarse. I’ve had them with a gun at my head, almost, saying “Record, ’cause we’ve gotta get the album out by Christmas!” I’ll feel really good when it’s over. I have an image of myself in five years. I’m living on an island. The sky is blue, the sun is shining. And I’m smiling, I’m healthy, I’m a family man. I see my skin very brown and leathery, with a bit of growth on my face. My hair is really long, with a lot of grey. I have some grey hair already.”
In 1975 David Cassidy had a #11 hit with “I Write The Songs” in the UK. The song was covered by Barry Manilow and became a number one hit in the USA. Cassidy returned to the Top 30 in 1990 with “Lying To Myself” and a final time in 1998 with “No Bridge I Wouldn’t Cross”. In addition, Cassidy appeared in 1978-79 in David Cassidy: Man Undercover, an NBC drama. Cassidy appeared in several plays and musicals in the 80s, and did a tour of the UK in 1985 to support a Top Ten hit in the country titled “The Last Kiss”.
In the 2010 David Cassidy was arrested for the first of three times in four years, for driving under the influence. In this time period he also faced felony charges for leaving the scene of an accident.
In the fall of 2017, Cassidy became ill while he was at a recording studio. He was taken to a hospital and after meeting with his doctor, learned he had liver disease, and that his life had “changed dramatically.” A People magazine article reported that Cassidy said he’d been unconscious and close to death in the days after he was taken to the hospital. Cassidy learned that the cause of his illness “was complete alcohol poisoning – and the fact is, I lied about my drinking.” Cassidy had told people initially that he took ill due to dementia. Cassidy said, “You know, I did it to myself, man. I did it to myself to cover up the sadness and the emptiness.” David Cassidy died at the age of 67.
December 14, 2019
David Cassidy and Chip Deffaa, C’mon, Get Happy … Fear and Loathing on the Partridge Family Bus, (Warner Books, 1994), p.4.
Steve Helling, “David Cassidy’s Shocking Confession Before His Death: He Was Still Drinking and Never Had Dementia: In an Interview Before he Died, the Former Teen Idol Admits that he had Never Gotten Sober,” People, June 6, 2018.
“Actor Jack Cassidy Dies in Blaze,” Beaver County Times, Beaver, PA, December 11, 1976.
Shirley Jones, Shirley Jones: A Memoir, Gallery Books, 2014, p. 96.
Mike Barnes, “Actress Evelyn Ward Dies at 89,” Hollywood Reporter, January 11, 2013.
“Why David Cassidy Bared All for Annie Leibovitz’s Cover Photo Shoot, ‘There Comes a Point When you Want to Hear Your Own Voice’ the Former Pop Idol Told the Magazine About his Decision to Pose Naked for Annie Leibovitz,” Rolling Stone, November 22, 2017.
Robin Green, “David Cassidy: Naked Lunch Box: The Story of the Singer, Actor and Songwriter Beyond Keith Partridge,” Rolling Stone, May 11, 1972.
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