David Cassidy, the 67-year-old legendary artist and performer who succumbed to organ failure Nov. 21, spent some of his last days playing music in Chicago.
“We were working on an EP called Songs My Father Taught Me,” says Mix Kitchen’s Craig J. Snider. “These are songs that his dad, Jack Cassidy, taught him. We had planned to do three 5-song sets.”
Although the album’s future is uncertain because Cassidy only recorded a handful of tunes — including George Gershwin’s “Summertime” and Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” — Snider cherishes the time they spent together.
“David Cassidy was an American original,” he says. “He was one of the few who could manage the trifecta: stage, screen and music.”
Along with David’s band and engineers, the studio also hosted an A&E camera crew that was filming a documentary during the sessions. Although Cassidy’s health began to deteriorate at a certain point in the process, Snider is confidant that he wanted to continue.
“We were trying to work during the good times of the day,” he recalls. “David loved it all. He just liked being creative. It was everything to him.”
Snider first met Cassidy when 180 Music Executive Producer, Jim Brandmeier, hired him to play guitar and piano and also program the 2007 album, David Cassidy Part II — The Remix.
“It was one of those classic Hollywood high-end home studios,” Snider recalls. “Jimmy said, ‘hey go and play on the piano.’ David just couldn’t believe that I could play the way I did. I loved the way he sang. From that moment on, we were like thick as thieves.”
Over the next decade, Snider not only produced and helped compose Cassidy’s final three albums, but also played keyboards in his touring band.
Snider remembers the versatile Cassidy as a hard-working artist, a top-notch performer, and an impeccable musician.
“What people didn’t realize with that dude was that he had major, major chops,” Snider explains. “From ‘68 to ’75, he was working with a different artist every day. He was, like, working with the crème de la crème of Hollywood.”
Collaborators in the crème included John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, Brian Wilson, and Carl Wilson. They would join Cassidy in the studio after he finished rehearsing or taping The Partridge Family TV show.
The musicians often backing Cassidy were known as the Wrecking Crew. A group of session players who helped Phil Spector develop the Wall of Sound, they went on to work with some of the most popular artists recording in LA at the time, including Frank Sinatra, Jan & Dean, Sonny & Cher, and The Mamas & The Papas.
The experience helped Cassidy develop a level of expertise that he brought into the studio at Mix Kitchen.
“I’d like to do a shout-out to Guitar Works in Evanston for helping me get the Vox AC4 and the Fender Princeton 65 reissue that David wanted to use,” Snider says. “They were classic 60s era amps that had the tone of that time.”
As Cassidy and Snider’s professional collaboration grew, so did their personal relationship.
“He was a huge baseball fan,” Snider recalls. “My son Jake is a high school player going to college to play baseball, and David loved following him and learning about his trials and travails.”
On stage, Snider describes Cassidy as a great performer who jammed like a jazz musician.
“He would audible, change tempos and keys, and sometimes even extend the song,” he remembers. “It was like playing with a really good NFL quarterback.”
Their gigs spanned the United States and Europe, and their set list spanned genres that showcased Cassidy’s expansive range, which included pop as well as Broadway and the Blues.
“He played a killer solo on the BB King song, ‘Sweet Little Angel,’” Snider recalls.
Snider was also able to record the BB King track with David. He intends to release it along with the Gershwin and Porter standards.
The shows ended with Cassidy’s hit song, “I Think I Love You.” When the crowd heard it, they would usually rush the stage and sing along while the band played him off, and that was it.
“David never did an encore,” Snider says. “He would give everything he could and then leave people wanting more.”