The Last Session

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(Pictured: David Cassidy at his final concert performance on March 4, 2017.)

The Mrs. and I recently watched the A&E special David Cassidy: The Last Session, which was broadcast earlier this month. It’s partly a biography of Cassidy, but it also includes a great deal of footage recorded last summer while he was working on an album of standards intended as a tribute to his father, actor Jack Cassidy.

When the producers were shooting the sessions, they didn’t know what was going to happen, but two big things did: A) Cassidy was hospitalized, bringing an end to the sessions a couple of months before his death, and B) he admitted to the producers that his widely publicized diagnosis of dementia was false, and that he was actually suffering complications of alcoholism. Cassidy kept up the dementia facade nearly to the end; the special contains footage of him getting advice from a dementia specialist, and of Cassidy talking about the effects of the condition on him.

I have written before that David Cassidy was, to 11-year-old me, the boy I wanted to be—attractive, well-dressed, talented, and able to mesmerize girls. I eventually moved on from him (although I remain an unreconstructed Partridge Family fanboy), but I would occasionally wonder whatever became of him. And when I saw what he was up to—playing an undercover cop on TV, making new music, starring on Broadway, writing a book (now out of print and staggeringly expensive)—I thought about what it must have been like to be him, trying to grow beyond one’s teenage image into a normal, productive adulthood, and how hard it must have been.

So I was naturally disposed to be sympathetic toward David Cassidy, and as we watched The Last Session, I started thinking, “We shouldn’t be seeing this.” Perhaps it’s because we knew how the story was going to end, but the pathos of it was hard to watch. This man, who had already lost so much, was, at the last, losing his dignity on TV. Had he lived, the false dementia diagnosis would have given the special a significant news hook. But had he lived, A&E would not have attracted as many eyeballs for a biography centered around the making of an album very few people would buy. The way it turned out, it felt a little ghoulish.

Cassidy’s costar and friend, Danny Bonaduce, expressed a similar sentiment in a radio interview this week. It’s here. If you’re interested in watching David Cassidy: The Last Session, it’s here. You’ll have to sign in with your cable or satellite provider to see it.

Links and Notes: Since I haven’t hit the word count yet, there’s room to send you to good stuff I’ve read recently:

—The debut album by the Cars came out 40 years ago this month. The AV Club went deep.

—In 1975, MCA Records produced a TV ad for Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. I don’t remember seeing it back then, but I didn’t need to be convinced to buy the album.

—In a recent post, I mentioned the George Jones hit “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” which many of us think is the greatest country song of all time. For Father’s Day, Keith Harris wrote about that song and his father.

—Guardian Music posted a feature on the way racial tensions shape modern soul music.

—I don’t need to hear Toto’s “Africa” ever again, but this oral history of the song is fun. Like so many other beloved, eternal pop songs, it was knocked off on the spur of the moment with very little thought at all.

—HERC did another one of his fabulous features on the WLS music survey, in this case from the week of June 10, 1978: singles here, albums here.

—I occasionally write blog posts for the website of one of my radio stations, although I am not sure anybody reads them. My latest one is on my summer of 1980, playing album rock in Freeport, Illinois, for $135 a week.

Programming Reminder: There will be a new post this Sunday at One Day in Your Life. The stuff I post on weekends doesn’t generally get the traffic of the stuff I post during the week, but I can’t be concerned with that because I’m following my damn muse over here. If you haven’t subscribed to One Day in Your Life to get the posts by e-mail, please do.

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