Life

Nuala McCann: Farewell to the eternal 'boy next door', David Cassidy

So farewell David Cassidy... I never was a fan. You were too saccharine sweet for me, too picture perfect, 'boy next door'...

David Cassidy performing in Manchester at the height of his fame in 1974

YOU were just too un-Harley Davidson, un-trouble – just too much the kind of boy my mother would adore.

You were too apple pie. Your teeth were UV American white. I switched over the Partridge Family like I switched over Little House on the Prairie.

Other girls loved you and Donny Osmond and Puppy Love and all that schmaltz. They tore pictures from the teen magazines and pinned them up on bedroom walls and hugged their pillows at night.

Meanwhile, there’s little old me, falling for a paedophile. Not Jimmy Saville – goodness no, we wouldn’t have touched him with a barge pole. But Gary Glitter had stonking silver platforms and the devil in his eye.

He belted out "Do you wanna be in my gang, my gang, my gang?"

And I did, along with a few million others, 'til we found out the truth. That was a bitter pill to swallow.

David Cassidy wasn’t like that. But the perfect Partridge character left him typecast as the golden boy and teen idol. It is hard to move on from the image. He existed in that Dorian Gray world where you grow older but people just see you in a certain way.

Life is never the sweet smile on an album cover.

And oh, how hard it is to age as the world watches and compares and sighs. Everywhere you are surrounded by portraits of the beautiful young man you once were and meanwhile your jowls slacken and your hairline recedes.

But David Cassidy’s passing matters to women like me who grew up in the 1970s, because he was our girlhood. He was the kind caring 'boy next door'. He was the perfect imaginary first love for millions of girls.

And when you reach that pinnacle at such an early age, there is no way to go but down. Our lives seemed very innocent back then.

We were fresh faced and full of dreams.

We shared out the Jackie comic at break time in school, agonised over the Cathy and Clare problem page and dreamed of having a pop star falling at our knees.

At the peak of his fame in the 1970s, they say that Cassidy had more fans in his fan club than Elvis Presley or the Beatles. But when the obituaries were published this week and celebrities went on air to talk about David, other truths emerged.

He came from a show biz family and dreamed of becoming a star – but the music that made millions of teen hearts throb, did little for his own.

Up in his teenage bedroom, he was channelling his inner Jimi Hendrix. He told close friends: "The problem is my name is David Cassidy and nobody takes what I do seriously."

It is hard when you are the pretty boy – the photographs of the young David from publicity shots and album covers are everywhere now. And even though I was never a fan, I recognised them instantly and remembered the blue jeans boy smiling out from the pictures.

Singer Kim Carnes – she of the hit song Bette Davis Eyes – toured with him in the long ago and they became close friends. Writing in Rolling Stone after news of his death broke, she said that David’s life was never meant to end like this.

There was so much more to him than the teen pop star, she said. His best friends were his friends from school, she said. He was close to his mother and when she got Alzheimer’s, he went and took care of her, saying how very difficult it was to watch her slowly disappear.

He had very hard times in his life. He struggled with alcohol, he filed for bankruptcy, he was arrested for drink driving and earlier this year, he revealed that he had dementia and would stop touring to take time out.

No, I never was a fan of David Cassidy but I understand how those who loved and idolised him felt when they heard that he had passed away.

How can you mourn someone you never knew? But it’s not that. For millions of women in their 50s and 60s, Cassidy is a touchstone to a younger, carefree time.

You mourn a wide-eyed innocent past full of romantic dreams... it is your younger self that you grieve.

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