New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media


This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

David Cassidy On His Jersey Roots

By Gary Wien


In the early 1970s, David Cassidy was about as famous as a person could get. He was Keith Partridge, the lead singer in The Partridge Family. He came into people's homes each week and dominated the radio with hits like "I Woke Up In Love This Morning" and "I Think I Love You" along with that memorable opening theme.

His likeness could be found on everything from posters to lunch boxes, comic books and cereal boxes, and he became the world's highest paid entertainer by the time he was 21. Through his career he's sold well over 30 million albums and has over 24 gold and platinum recordings along with an acting resume that includes roles in performances on Broadway and London's West End.

Yet, before all of his fame he was just a boy growing up in West Orange, NJ raised by his grandparents. Even though he was only living here for a few years, his time in Jersey and his family's roots here are very special to him.

Cassidy returns here on Friday, January 9th with a performance at the State Theatre in New Brunswick. New Jersey Stage spoke with him about the upcoming show and what this area means to him.

You weren't in New Jersey long, but is playing a show here special for you?
Oh God, yeah. My mom and I moved from Manhattan when I was 5 and my parents got divorced. I moved in with my grandparents and I started kindergarten and went all the way through the 5th grade in West Orange where my grandparents had lived since buying their house in 1919 I think.

Every time I go back to play anywhere in New Jersey — anywhere including Atlantic City or especially New Brunswick, places I visited when I was a kid — it's quite emotional for me and very nostalgic. It has more depth for me because of my connection with New Jersey and being so young and in such a vulnerable state of mind and emotions because my parents had been divorced. Basically my grandparents raised me because my mom was on the road a lot doing shows. She did work on Broadway quite a lot and I spent some weekends in Manhattan with her, but I feel a really strong connection to New Jersey and doing shows there has always been very memorable.

Is it true that your parents were divorced for a year or two before they told you?
Yes, it's true. Apparently they were divorced when I was about three and a half. When I was five I found out my dad was married in 1955 to Shirley. There was a certain amount of shame to being divorced and being the son of a divorced couple. I grew up in a very blue-collar area. I got teased, so what? I got over it. I've been divorced myself so I understand the concept.

But I have a strong bond with the shows I do all over New Jersey. I spent a lot of time with mom and my dad — in separate places, of course — when they were doing summer stock, which both did quite a lot of.

New Jersey still claims you as one of its own on a lot of Internet lists, so it's good that you still feel that connection.
I do. I will always feel that. I was born in Manhattan and I often talk about being a guy from New York and I still feel a very strong connection to Manhattan, but I spent much more time and more of my formative years in Jersey. Between the ages of 5 and 11 you really form yourself as a person. I had a lot of very strong religious influences from my grandparents. I was the soloist in the choir. I had to go to Sunday School and Bible School and did all kinds of Christian stuff because they wanted me to. I loved them very much and they took care of me. It was a wonderful environment that I lived in to be honest. It was very simple. There wasn't much money, but there was food on the table and they took good care of me.

Your parents were both accomplished actors. Were you more interested in being an actor or a musician?
Oh, I was definitely going to be an actor and I was an actor before I became a professional musician. I was raised with music. My grandmother was a piano teacher and an opera singer; my mother was a singer and a dancer; and my father was a brilliant singer. When I would go to visit my dad he gave me a lot of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Rodgers & Hammerstein influences and I got into big band on my own. Bobby Darin was a huge influence on me because he was the bridge between my father's music and mine. I wasn't into Bobby Darin the "Splish Splash" guy, I was into Darin doing "Beyond the Sea" and "Mack the Knife" and all of that great stuff.

I pursued my career as a teenager in Los Angeles when I was still in high school. I was the only non-professional that got into the Los Angeles Theater Company. I moved back to New York two weeks after I graduated high school and had a part-time job in a mail room at a textile company for two dollars an hour. It was an exciting time. I was studying there and got an agent and got my first professional job at 18 in a musical on Broadway. It was a failed show called The Fig Leaves Are Falling but a CBS Films casting director saw me and flew me out to do a screen test for a movie. I didn't get the role but Michael Douglas did and Michael and I laugh about that. I saw him a year ago and we were laughing our butts off about this movie. He said, "Thank God you didn't get it, it nearly ruined my career!" But the screen test led to me getting an agent out in Los Angeles and then doing auditions and starting to do television. I did Marcus Welby MD, Mod Squad, Bonanza — all of those shows, about ten of them.

From there I started going on auditions for pilots and it was weird but I would not have had a professional music career if it was not for The Partridge Family. Although I played guitar and sang, it was just for fun in my living room. The Partridge Family introduced me to a whole new world of working with writers and the most fantastic musicians on the face of the earth. I worked with some of the greatest writers of all time. I was 19 and I was a sponge, I just soaked it up.

I've always considered myself an actor. People don't think of me as an actor anymore because I've had so much more success as an entertainer, but for me one of the highlights of my career was being on Broadway in the '90s with Blood Brothers. That's an acting role and it's a serious acting role. There's a little music in it for the character I played, but not much.

I still get offered roles from time to time. A couple times this year I got offered a few films that were really crap. And I thought I'd love to act, but don't do junk. If it doesn't spark a fire in your belly, what are you doing it for? Why would you be doing this? Just because you want to act again? Don't act in crap!

It has nothing to do with money or the budget or anything like that. It's always been about the work for me. I tell this to people when I speak at schools, I say forget about fame, forget about money. If you're taking a job for fame and thinking you just want to be famous then do something else. If you do good work the rest of it will come. If you're good and you do good work it may take you 20 years, it may even take you 40 years as it's taken many actors. I can't even tell you how many actors have struggled and then finally they make it and suddenly people go, "Oh, my God what a talent!" Well, they had that talent, they just now had the opportunity. If you're just pursuing the result which is "I want to be rich," then good luck. Good luck with that. It can be done now, but to me it's pretty empty that way.

I love to play. I love to entertain and I get more of a buzz out of doing that — making people laugh, making people cry. That's just the way it is. It inspires me to get up and play with the best band I've ever had in my life. They've been with me now for a decade and they're all master class musicians. They're ridiculously good! And they're like my second family.

What are your sets like these days? Do you only play the hits or include your own favorites?
Oh, no, I don't just do the hits. I do the hits that I like and the ones that fit. I just started doing a hit that actually sold almost two million copies of the single. It's called "Doesn't Somebody Want To Be Wanted" and it was a song I hated! I nearly quit The Partridge Family over it. But I do it now again and not because I feel pressured to do it but because I can riff on it about how silly it was for me and how much fun it is to play now. At the time, that record sold nearly 2 million copies, but I hated it. They practically had to put a gun to my head to do it.

I get a real hoot playing "Come On Get Happy". I do it quite differently, but it just makes people smile. It really makes them happy. When you reach an audience and you know you've had an impact on them, it's a beautiful thing.

But I also play some stuff people wouldn't expect because I saw Hendrix live, I saw Cream. I'll do some B.B. King. I have a very lush and deep connection with some of my musical heroes. John Lennon became a friend of mine and I played a few times with him. I played once with Paul McCartney. Those are the guys who inspired me to pick up an electric guitar and start playing and I still think that was the best band that ever lived.

I just think I was so blessed to have this plethora of remarkable talent around me that I soaked it up like a sponge as a kid and as a neophyte. Within 5 years, I had recorded hundreds of songs and had written a bunch of great songs. I started writing later with Brian Wilson and Harry Nilsson and got to work with people that I had admired and was a fan of and what a gift that was. What a gift. I pay homage to all of that when I play live.

The mania that surrounded you when you were at the height of your fame. Were you better off that it happened before the world of social media?
I have no idea. That's a reality we will never know.

Do you think anyone could ever reach that level of fame again?
No, I don't think that will ever happen again. I think the world is so much more sophisticated as a result of it and I think there are so many other distractions now. I just think the world was still innocent then. We were in magazines and we watched TV and that was it. People didn't believe when I would walk into a restaurant that I actually came out of that box. That I was not just a poster or a lunch box or pillowcase or bubble gum card. They didn't believe I was real. The world is so much more sophisticated now.

Imagine walking into that restaurant with cellphones and the Internet.
There would be 20 cellphone photos of you thrown up there. It's so weird. I mean it's odd. I've been photographed sitting down at dinner with my girlfriend and hanging out with some buddies of mine and they said I was in a different place having a different experience. I thought what would be the purpose of that — how small is your life and how empty is your life to do such a thing? That's why I don't do any social media at all. I stay away from all of it. People tell me you can tweet us. Sorry, I'm not tweeting today. I have a much richer and fuller life. Go analog, that's all I can say.

I am on a cell phone and I do text. I just don't do email and I don't do social media stuff. Fortunately, my life does not revolve around how many hits I get or any of that. I like to create, I like to be with beautiful people and friends that I care about and that care about me. It's a small circle and I like to keep it that way.




For more by this author, click here






NJSO presents 2019 Winter Festival, 'Music Speaks'
(NEWARK, NJ) -- A trio of renowned guest artists with distinct musical voices—pianists Emanuel Ax and Daniil Trifonov and soprano Dawn Upshaw—headline the NJSO’s Winter Festival, “Music Speaks,” in January 2019. The Orchestra’s signature artistic event takes place across three weekends, January 10–27, in six New Jersey venues.
RVCC Chorale to Perform Annual Holiday Concert on December 8th
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) --The RVCC Chorale will give its annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00pm in the Welpe Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College’s Branchburg campus. The program will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata, Das Neugeborne Kindelein, as well as a cappella pieces from by Sergei Rachmaninov, Zoltan Kodaly and Giuseppe Verdi. The program also will include an audience singalong of traditional carols.
Classic Stones Live! The Complete Rolling Stones Tribute Show Comes To SOPAC
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- The Rolling Stones, the greatest Blues band of all time, couldn’t make it to SOPAC on their 2018 tour. Instead, the acclaimed tribute band Classic Stones Live! makes an appearance on the SOPAC stage December 15 at 8:00pm for those who like to hear their Rolling Stones hits live.
Tony Trischka Presents "Of a Winter's Night" at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Of a Winter’s Night is Tony Trischka's acoustic celebration of the holiday season. Based on his CD release of the same name, this concert features Trischka’s considerable melodic inventiveness on a wide variety of seasonal tunes. He turns his inventiveness loose on bluegrass and Americana music for the holidays. This one of a kind concert will take place at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship on Saturday, December 8 at 7:30pm.
Idle Wave To Hold Record Release Party At Asbury Park Brewery
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Pop-punks Idle Wave will celebrate the release of their self-titled EP on Saturday, December 1st at Asbury Park Brewery.  The record release show also includes performances by Skyeline, Roderick, and Pollyanna.


"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.
Sha Na Na LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
The audience is streaming into the Newton Theatre auditorium in Newton, NJ this Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 for a live concert starring Sha Na Na!










Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


MUSIC

New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


THEATRE

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm







DANCE

PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


FILM

Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

View all events
























New Jersey Stage © 2018 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 | info@newjerseystage.com

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.