Charles Manson, David Cassidy & The Final Death Knell For Peace In America
The deaths of David Cassidy and Charles Manson in the same calendar week may be the strangest, yet truest sign to date of the heartbreaking pressure of living in Donald Trump’s America.
This was the final breath escaping the lungs of the metaphorical shifty-eyed, ne’er-do-well white hippie rock and roller with his matted gray hair pulled back into a long, single braid, partially smoking an American Spirit cigarette and shoving the half-finished butt into the right hip pocket of his faded and fraying bell bottoms for later. But later never came. Instead, this hippie sat down, and the crags of worry that creased his face slowly expanded into a smile as he flipped on the television to watch a seeming never-ending Partridge Family re-run. The hijinks of Danny Partridge and Reuben Kincaid bitter-sweetly played as his eyes closed one final time. The death of America’s most notorious cult leader and most beloved teen idol in the same calendar week cannot pass without being properly regarded as the massive burial of America’s likely now forever distressed relationship with national peace that it truly represents.
In 1969, Linda Kasabian just wanted to feel “wanted.” She was a 20-year old flaxen-haired hippie estranged from her husband, with a 16-month old daughter in tow, languishing in the bleak afterglow of the peace movement. As fate would have it, her desire to be loved and respected led to this woeful mother being the lookout when the Charles Manson-led “family” of peace and freedom loving Americans she joined turned into shockingly murderous psychopaths. Their act of breaking and entering into actress Sharon Tate’s home and stabbing her and and four of her friends to death in a manner most grisly is, as the Tate murder case prosecuting attorney Vincent Bugliosi noted in 2009, the first toll of what is now, after this week, “a final death knell for hippies and all they symbolically represented.”
Though 20 years of age in 1970, David Cassidy’s Partridge Family character Keith Partridge was cast as the roughly 16-year old oldest son of widowed mother of five Shirley Partridge. In real-time the show spawned the sextet as a pop-act supreme. One of their hits was an 1971-released, lovelorn, and ersatz soul stomper entitled — ironically enough as related to the above story of Manson Family member Linda Kasabian — “Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted.” The song was a #1 American hit, spawning, in a country which the New York Times notes, “with the turbulent late 1960s of the Vietnam War, race riots, psychedelia, Woodstock and Altamont barely past,” Cassidy having a career as “a wholesome fantasy figure for girls.”
There’s a bittersweet, yet frustratingly shocking notion to contemplate of Charles Manson and David Cassidy representing the same flipping coin of hippie-era psychedelia, each occupying a diametrically opposed side of what happens “when dropping out goes wrong.”
Timothy Leary issued the hippie movement’s LSD-soaked marching orders of “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” And for as much as there were the amazing leaders of the movement like Jimi Hendrix, who turned on and tuned in so many Americans to their best and most cosmically metaphysical selves, there were similarly charismatic folks like the aforementioned Manson, who when they dropped out, took a left turn for the worst, and never looked back.
The infamous “Manson Family” was maybe the ultimate perversion of time space and place, the murky balance to the psychedelia of peacenik uber-haven San Francisco’s 1967 “Summer of Love. Manson, who at 32 and after spending half of his life either incarcerated or as a ward of the law, took his prison-honed singer-songwriter and guitar-playing skills to Haight-Ashbury, and from there, he amassed a group of lonely souls convinced that Manson was “the second coming: Christ and the Devil all wrapped up in the same person.”
He and his bizarre coterie moved to the suburbs of Los Angeles, where the wannabe rock star believed that The Beatles’ White Album single “Helter Skelter” was encoded with secret messages about an African-American uprising against the state that, once over, would allow for the space for Manson and his followers to take over America.
Similar, but different is the case of the David Cassidy-as-Keith Partridge superstar vehicle The Partridge Family. At the show’s height in 1972, roughly one-quarter of all of the television sets available in America were tuned in to the ABC network on Friday nights at 8:30 PM to see what sort of hijinks Keith and family would get into while driving their Piet Mondrian-design inspired 1957 Chevrolet school bus across the United States. Concurrent to the show’s success, Cassidy and company were nominated to be awarded the golden gramophone as Grammy’s “Best New Artists” of 1970, plus released seven worldwide top-ten singles in two years between 1970–1972.
There’s something about the idea of shows like The Partridge Family and bubblegum pop stars and songs serving as a national panacea after the age of Kent State, Jimi’s “Purple Haze,” and yes, “Helter Skelter.” America’s age of drying out from the longest and strangest of trips included families sitting down and watching flaxen-haired women be the lookout for juvenile behavior with psychedelic memorabilia in the background. This makes perfect shell-shocked, Agent Orange-poisoned, post-traumatic stress syndrome recovering sense.
As far as the specter of “devil may care” in “Venerated Pop Star Jesus” David Cassidy? It was certainly there, as Cassidy scandalously posed nude on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1972. However, unlike female Manson Family members engaging in what has been noted was significant brainwashing and drug-fueled bisexual orgies, Cassidy alluded to much more milquetoast behavior with his female fans, as he noted in the adjoining interview that, “Oh, they’re cute — they get flustered and I get flustered, and it’s all kind of fun. But it’s no fun when they rip your clothes and take rooms next door in hotels and keep pounding on the door and slipping notes under it.”
When David Cassidy and Charles Manson pass away in the same week, it should resonate with just how distressed America is at present. Under the rule of Donald Trump in arguably this country’s most dilapidated era, an American peace era icon with a terrifying God/Devil complex and an American teen idol of the post-peace era who wanted everyone to feel wanted and loved have reached their demise. If you were a non-believer of the notion beforehand, this is undoubtedly proof that people can indeed die of a broken heart. Hearts too heavy with the pressures of anger and sadness over seeing their yearned and patiently waited for dreams of peace and joy deferred finally were not actually not just broken. Worse, they were likely crushed into bits.
Regarding how we soundtrack the funeral procession of peace in America, maybe we should first pry Charles Manson’s favorite Beatles song from his cold dead hands. Upon doing that, let’s drop the needle on the record right here:
Do you, don’t you want me to make you
I’m coming down fast now don’t let me break you
Tell me tell me tell me the answer
You ain’t no lover but you ain’t no dancer