“The Partridge Family,” starring singer David Cassidy, was pre-tested for success. Ricky Nelson of “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” showed that the cute son of a television family could have hit records. “The Monkees” proved that a TV show about a fictional rock band could create a real one. And the Cowsills demonstrated that a wholesome family band could appeal to an audience leery of the rougher edges of ’60s rock.
“The Partridge Family” drew on all three of those models when the show debuted on ABC on Sept. 25, 1970. Only two of the six-member TV family band were actually related: Cassidy was the real-life stepson of Shirley Jones, who played the TV family’s matriarch. Those two handled the vocals on the songs that were introduced in each weekly episode. Those recordings greatly benefited from production by Wes Farrell (who had co-written the Beatles’ “Boys” and the McCoys’ “Hang on Sloopy”), writing by such Brill Building vets as Cynthia Weil, Barry Mann and Neil Sedaka, and playing by Phil Spector’s Wrecking Crew.
“The Definitive Collection,” an album from 2000, contains all 10 Partridge Family singles that charted in the United States and/or Britain, plus all eight of Cassidy’s pre-1974 solo singles that did the same. After leaving the show in 1974, Cassidy tried but failed to establish an adult musical reputation comparable to Susan Cowsill or the Monkees’ Michael Nesmith.
Like his early-’70s rival Donny Osmond, Cassidy, now 64, has returned to stage musicals, TV roles and nostalgia concerts. And at every show, he sings “I Think I Love You,” the Partridge Family’s first hit and an earworm that is difficult to dislodge.