The 16th May, 2020, marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Sammy Davis, Jr.
While we are always sad that Sammy was taken from us all way too soon (he was 64), we think this is a time to reflect on the many marvellous talents that Sammy brought to the world of entertainment.
In tribute, here are some of our favourite YouTube videos, reflecting the many and varied skills which with he thrilled audiences for 60 years.
Sammy performed as a Trio with his father and ‘uncle’ Will Mastin from 1936 until 1958, first in vaudeville and then in nightclubs. This routine is from their second appearance on national TV, on The Colgate Comedy Hour hosted by Eddie Cantor in 1951.
An amazing (seated!) rendition of one of Sammy’s most famous songs, from The Andy Williams Show in 1962. His career yielded over 50 albums, but “What Kind Of Fool Am I” stands out. It was Sammy’s first million-seller and was entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.
The Tap Dancer
Trained as a ‘flash’ dancer, Sammy regularly included tap in his live and TV performances. Here he jumps on top a piano played by host Steve Allen on The Steve Allen Show in 1956.
One of the first African Americans to do impressions of white singers and actors in front of white audiences, Sammy’s impressions were legendary. Here he runs through his whole repertoire (Cagney, Brando, Jerry, Nat, Tony, Frank, Louis, Dean, etc) on The Big Party in 1959.
Touring the jazz halls and nightclubs of America for two decades, Sammy picked up a thing or two on the traps from his performer contemporaries. Enjoy this extended drum solo from the TV special A Tribute To Eddie Condon in 1964.
Sammy could play several instruments, but mostly just for show. The vibraphone, on the other hand, he developed a real knack for. Here he holds his own nicely in a genuine jazz jam session on Frankly Jazz in 1961. Multitalented is an understatement.
Although never a bankable movie star in his own right, Sammy had several iconic roles on film, including Sportin’ Life in Porgy And Bess, and as Big Daddy in the grooviest Bob Fosse dance sequence of all time, “Rhythm Of Life” from Sweet Charity in 1969.
The Entertainment Icon
During the 1980s, Sammy was at the top of his game, touring the world as a respected elder statesman of entertainment. His most enduring contribution to popular culture may just be “Mr. Bojangles”, which was his regular closing number for almost two decades.