Former teen heartthrob heads to The Birchmere

By Jordan Wright

In a career spanning six decades, David Cassidy has worked in television, theater and concert halls as a musician, actor, songwriter, singer, director and producer. That’s a lot of crossover. But when you’re the son of theatrical and TV royalty Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward, you could say, “Well, kids, that’s showbiz!”

At the tender age of 8, Cassidy started touring and performing in summer stock productions along with his parents and landed his first Broadway role before he was a teenager. Many of his fans grew up with him in the 1970s when he played adorable heartthrob Keith in the long-running, syndicated sitcom, “The Partridge Family.” He and stepmother Shirley Jones were the only two cast members to actually sing on the show’s 10 albums.

With more than 30 million records sold worldwide, his career has taken him to Broadway, Las Vegas and locations across the globe. Cassidy still spends nearly 200 days a year on the road, though he admits he’ll be cutting back on lengthy tours in the future.

Cassidy and his five-piece band will drop by the Birchmere on Saturday, the last stateside stop on an eight-month tour. He heads to England next and expects to perform for more than 10,000 spectators a night. I spoke to Cassidy by phone this week from his base in upstate New York.

Alexandria Times: How has the U.S. leg of your tour been?

David Cassidy: I’ve had the greatest summer I can remember. I’m with my band of eight years. The audiences have been great. I can’t explain it. I’ve never enjoyed playing as much, and the momentum keeps growing.

Are you looking forward to playing The Birchmere?

The wonderful thing about The Birchmere is it is one of the most legendary places in the U.S. to play. It’s genuine and earthy. Some of the greats have played there. It reminds me of the Bottom Line in New York. There are virtually no other venues I play that are so intimate. The management and the backstage crew and the vibe are so great. It has that true blues, rock ‘n’ roll sort of authenticity. My band [including guitarist Dave Robicheau of the The Monkees] said, “Let’s go back there!”

How much of the show is new music?

Virtually none. But I do songs that are a part of my journey. My fans come to hear the songs they love. I don’t do the same show every night — that’s not me. I like to interact with the audience and keep it spontaneous.

Who are your musical influences now?

The same that have been my influences before: I like John Mayer and Sting, as an incredible writer, bass player and singer. My earlier influences were [Richard] Rogers and [Oscar] Hammerstein, [George] Gershwin, Cole Porter, Bobby Darin. But when I became a teenager it was the Beatles. I remember the night I turned 12 was when I first heard them. The next day I bought an electric guitar … I played blues in garage bands when I was younger, and I loved B.B. King and Buffalo Springfield, who played at my high school. The Beach Boys were another favorite, and I became good friends with Carl Wilson. Later Brian [Wilson] and I wrote a song together. I got to play with my musical heroes and became good friends with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I played with him a few times when he was making the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” album in the ’70’s. I think John and Paul were the greatest songwriting team ever. And Yoko has such an amazing soul.

Your son, Beau, and daughter, Katie, are in show business. Do you support their showbiz careers?

I do now. I didn’t support them earlier when [Katie’s] mom wanted her to be Britney Spears. Now she’s done five TV series — “Gossip Girl” was one — and some films. I’m very proud of the work she’s done. My son has been studying at Michigan State, Boston University and NYU. He’s a very talented musician and songwriter in a band called The Fates. I heard their first few songs, and the stuff is remarkable.

Are you excited about your upcoming Lifetime Achievement Award at the Film, Recording and Entertainment Council’s Star Gala in November?

I say this humorously and somewhat sarcastically: If you do enough work and stick around long enough and don’t give up, you pick yourself up a few times and then someone says, “What about this guy?” I’m very flattered by it. And because I’ve been accused of being a workaholic, I’ve finally backed off from working 52 weeks a year. I tell my kids and [audiences] in talks at colleges and schools, it’s never been about the money, and I appreciate working so much more now. Because if you’re going to write and produce and direct with a lot of people with a lot of talent, it makes a difference if they have a strong investment in it.

What’s next for you?

I plan to do at least one more album. I have a concept that I have never fully explored that I’d like to work on. It’s not about the multiplatinum records anymore. Before I only focused on the end result — now I like to take my time.

David Cassidy performs at The Birchmere — located at 3701 Mount Vernon Ave. — on Saturday. For tickets, visit www.ticketmaster.com.

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