Sammy Davis Jr – Samuel George Davis Jr. (December 8, 1925 – May 16, 1990) was an American singer, musician, dancer, actor, vaudevillian, comedian, and activist known for his impressions of actors, musicians, and other celebrities.
At age three, Davis began his career in vaudeville with his father Sammy Davis Sr. and the Will Mastin Trio, which toured nationally. After military service, he returned to the trio and became an overnight sensation following a nightclub performance at Ciro’s (in West Hollywood) after the 1951 Academy Awards.
With the trio, he became a recording artist. In 1954, at the age of 29, he lost his left eye in a car accident. Several years later, he converted to Judaism, finding commonalities between the oppression experienced by African-American and Jewish communities.
After a starring role on Broadway in Mr Wonderful (1956), he returned to the stage in 1964’s Golden Boy. Davis’s film career began as a child in 1933. In 1960, he appeared in the Rat Pack film Ocean’s 11. In 1966, he had his own TV variety show, titled The Sammy Davis Jr. Show. While Davis’s career slowed in the late 1960’s, his biggest hit, “The Candy Man”, reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1972, and he became a star in Las Vegas, earning him the nickname “Mister Show Business”.
Davis had a complex relationship with the black community and drew criticism after publicly supporting President Richard Nixon in 1972. One day on a golf course with Jack Benny, he was asked what his handicap was. “Handicap?” he asked. “Talk about handicap. I’m a one-eyed Negro who’s Jewish.” This was to become a signature comment, recounted in his autobiography and in many articles
After reuniting with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in 1987, Davis toured with them and Liza Minnelli internationally, before his death in 1990.
He died in debt to the Internal Revenue Service, and his estate was the subject of legal battles. Davis was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award for his television performances. He was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1987, and in 2001, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
To celebrate his life and mark his death on May 16, we have chosen Sammy Davis Jr. to be our artist of the month. Just use the discount code SAMMY 15 when you checkout. T&Cs apply.