The actor had won hearts worldwide as the hunky, young star of The Partridge Family in the 1970s. Despite unbelievable fame, the decades that followed were marked with turmoil for Cassidy, who died Tuesday from organ failure. He was 66.
Cassidy revealed exclusively to PEOPLE in February that he was battling dementia and stepping back from touring as a musician to “enjoy life” and “love.”
At the peak of his early career, Cassidy played some 350 concerts in 17 countries while releasing 10 Partridge albums, eight solo albums and 17 singles, PEOPLE reported in 1983. Cassidy would fight off aggressive fans – things at one point got so out of control that he had to be smuggled into his own concerts.
“I was a kid, not a man,” he told PEOPLE in 1983 of having to semi-retire, exhausted, at only 24. A friend, Samuel Hyman, noted at the time, “If David hadn’t done all those years of seven-day weeks—acting, touring, recording — he might not have been driven to the edge. I think he had to stop for his mental well-being.”
Cassidy was more than happy to leave Keith Partridge behind. He told PEOPLE in 1973, “There’s a lot more to me than the public has seen and I’m going to make sure they see it. Now I’m free. It’s as if a tremendous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel I’ve finished on top.”
Cassidy disappeared, traveling alone to visit friends. While he was gone, his estranged father Jack Cassidy died in 1976. Said Cassidy of the loss: “I just wish I could have talked to him before he left. I didn’t have a chance to say ‘I love you.’ ”
The next year, Cassidy wed actress Kay Lenz. The marriage fell apart, however, with Cassidy telling PEOPLE amid their separation in 1983 that “Kay had her own life, and I had different needs.”
Soon, he was engaged to horse breeder Meryl Tanz, who told PEOPLE that same year of her fiancé: “A lot of people in rock have died or been impaired by drugs or whatever. He is sane, normal and clean-living.” They wed the next year, but the marriage was also short-lived.
By 1986, Cassidy was a first-time dad, welcoming daughter Katie Cassidy with on-again-off-again girlfriend Sherry Williams. With another television series under his belt (the short-lived David Cassidy: Man Undercover), a Broadway stint and a new studio album, Romance, Cassidy’s return to prominence was underway.
Another marriage, to songwriting partner Sue Shifrin-Cassidy, would follow; as would the birth of son Beau in 1991. Soon Cassidy was drawing crowds again, this time as he costarred with brother Shaun Cassidy in Broadway musical Blood Brothers.
For Cassidy, the show and marriage marked a re-emergence from “a couple of really dark, dark years,” he told PEOPLE in 1993. He added, “I’ve made a tremendous metamorphosis.”
After a decade marked by success with Las Vegas productions and a brief return to television on the late 2000s with series Ruby & the Rockits, Cassidy was again plagued with personal issues.
“He was on his way to the airport to return to his home in Florida and to transitional rehabilitation. He plans now to return to rehab in an undisclosed facility,” the statement said.
On. Feb. 20, 2017, Cassidy announced that he would retire after performing a few, final concerts – ending a nearly 50-year career. In a Facebook message to his fans, Cassidy wrote on Feb. 7, “I will always be eternally grateful for the love and support you’ve shown me.”
On Nov. 21, 2017, Cassidy died from organ failure in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 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 family said in a statement to PEOPLE. “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 had been in intensive care since he was hospitalized for liver and kidney failure the week before his death.