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Sammy Davis Jr

Recognized throughout much of his career as "the world's greatest living entertainer," Sammy Davis, Jr. was a remarkably popular and versatile performer equally adept at acting, singing, dancing, and impersonations -- in short, a variety artist in the classic tradition. A member of the famed Rat Pack, he was among the very first African-American talents to find favor with audiences on both sides of the color barrier, and remains a perennial icon of cool. Born in Harlem on December 8, 1925, Davis made his stage debut at the age of three performing with Holiday in Dixieland, a black vaudeville troupe featuring his father and helmed by his de facto uncle, Will Mastin; dubbed "Silent Sam, the Dancing Midget," he proved phenomenally popular with audiences and the act was soon renamed Will Mastin's Gang Featuring Little Sammy. At the age of seven, Davis made his film debut in the legendary musical short Rufus Jones for President, and later received tap-dancing lessons courtesy of the great Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. In 1941, the Mastin Gang opened for Tommy Dorsey at Detroit's Michigan Theater; there Davis first met Dorsey vocalist Frank Sinatra -- the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

In 1943, Davis joined the U.S. Army, where he endured a constant battle with racism; upon his return from duty, the group was renamed the Will Mastin Trio. Three years later they opened for Mickey Rooney, who encouraged Davis to begin including his many impersonations in the Trio's act; where previously they had exclusively performed music, the addition of comedy brought new life to the group, and by the beginning of the next decade, they were headlining venues including New York's Capitol club and Ciro's in Hollywood. In 1952, at the invitation of Sinatra, they also played the newly integrated Copacabana. In 1954, Davis signed to Decca, topping the charts with his debut LP, Starring Sammy Davis, Jr.; that same year he lost his left eye in a much-publicized auto accident, but upon returning to the stage in early 1955 was greeted with even greater enthusiasm than before on the strength of a series of hit singles including "Something's Gotta Give," "Love Me or Leave Me," and "That Old Black Magic." A year later, Davis made his Broadway debut in the musical Mr. Wonderful, starring in the show for over 400 performances and launching a hit with the song "Too Close for Comfort."

In 1958, Davis resumed his film career after a quarter-century layoff with Anna Lucasta, followed a year later by his acclaimed turn in Porgy and Bess. Also in 1959 he became a charter member of the Rat Pack, a loose confederation of Sinatra associates (also including Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop) which began regularly performing together at the Sands casino in Las Vegas. In 1960, they made Ocean's Eleven, the first in a series of hip and highly self-referential Rat Pack films; although Davis' inclusion in the group was perceived in many quarters as an egalitarian move, many Black audiences felt he was simply a token -- the butt of subtly racist jokes -- and declared him a sell-out. His earlier conversion to Judaism had been met with considerable controversy within the African-American community as well; still, nothing compared to the public outcry over his 1960 marriage to Swedish actress May Britt, which even elicited death threats. Still, Davis remained a major star, appearing in the 1962 Rat Pack film Sergeants 3 and scoring a major hit with "What Kind of Fool Am I?" Two years later he returned to Broadway in the long-running Golden Boy, scoring a Tony nomination for his performance.

In 1964, the third Rat Pack film, Robin and the Seven Hoods, was released; two years later, in the wake of the publication of his autobiography Yes I Can, Davis was also among a number of musical luminaries, including Sinatra and Louis Armstrong, who co-starred in the jazz drama A Man Called Adam. In 1968, he and Lawford teamed as Salt and Pepper; the picture was a hit, and a sequel, One More Time, appeared in 1970. In between the two, Davis delivered one of his most memorable screen performances in Bob Fosse's 1969 musical Sweet Charity; he also appeared in a number of television features, including The Pigeon, The Trackers, and Poor Devil. In 1972, Davis topped the pop charts with "The Candy Man," from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; from 1975 to 1977, he hosted his own syndicated variety show, Sammy and Company, and in 1978, starred in the film Sammy Stops the World. However, in the late '70s and through much of the '80s, Davis' profile diminished, and he was primarily confined to the casino circuit, with a 1988 comeback tour he mounted with Sinatra and Martin largely unsuccessful. His appearance in the 1989 film Tap was much acclaimed, but it was to be his last screen performance -- a lifelong smoker, Davis died of cancer on May 16, 1990. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Someone To Watch Over Me (Remastered)

1. All Of You

3. I`Ll Know

4. The Lady Is A Tramp

6. Easy To Love

7. That Old Black Magic

8. Someone To Watch Over Me

9. Something's Gotta Give

11. Hey There

12. New York`S My Home

14. Love Me Or Leave Me

16. Adelaide

17. Birth Of The Blues

18. Inka Dinka Doo

x

Track List: Something's Gotta Give

1. Something's Gotta Give

2. I Don't Care Who Knows

3. The Way You Look Tonight

4. Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone

5. You Are My Lucky Star

6. I Ain't Got Nobody

7. Can't You See I've Got The Blues

8. Smile, Darn Ya, Smile

9. Azure

10. Yours Is My Heart Alone

11. Wagon Wheels

12. Here Lies Love

13. The Gypsy In My Soul

14. Hey There

15. Lonesome Road

16. Because Of You

17. September Song

18. The Birth Of The Blues

19. All Of You

20. Easy To Love

21. My Funny Valentine

22. That Old Black Magic

23. Love Me Or Leave Me

24. In A Persian Market

x

Track List: Sammy Davis Jr. Essential

Disc 1

3. My Funny Valentine

4. Bye Bye Blackbird

7. In The Still Of The Night

8. The Lady Is A Tramp

11. Me And My Shadow

12. What Kind Of Fool Am I

Disc 2

1. What I've Got In Mind

2. Come Sundown

3. Mention A Mansion

4. You're Gonna Love Yourself (In The Morning)

5. Smoke, Smoke, Smoke (That Cigarette)

6. Oh Lonesome Me

7. We Could Have Been Closest Of Friends

8. Hey Won't You Play (Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song)

9. Please Don't Tell Me How The Story Ends

10. The River's Too Wide

x

Track List: Mr. Bojangles

1. Keeping Out Of Mischief Now

2. Love Is All Around

3. That's Entertainment

4. The Birth Of The Blues

5. All The Things You Are

6. The People Tree

7. The Candy Man

8. John Shaft

9. Over The Rainbow

10. MacArthur Park

11. Mr. Bojangles

x

Track List: The Sammy Davis, Jr. Show With Special Guest Stars Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin

1. Hey, There

2. My Mother The Car

4. More Than One Way

5. Feeling Good

6. Paris Is At Her Best In May

7. Love At Last You Have Found Me

9. If You Want This Love Of Mine

10. No One Can Live Forever

11. This Dream

12. What Kind Of Fool Am I?

x

Track List: What Kind Of Fool Am I

1. What Kind of Fool Am I

2. Once In A Lifetime

3. A Lot Of Living To Do

4. Begin The Beguine

5. Can't We Be Friends

6. Something's Coming

7. Gonna Build A Mountain

8. Someone Nice Like You

9. Too Close For Comfort

10. My Romance

11. Thou Swell

12. Lost In The Stars

x

Track List: 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best Of Sammy Davis Jr.

1. The Candy Man

2. I'll Begin Again

3. Have A Little Talk With Myself

4. John Shaft

5. The People Tree

6. Mr. Bojangles (Single Version)

7. (I'd Be) A Legend In My Time (Single Version)

8. I'm Not Anyone (Single Version)

9. Porgy & Bess Medley (TV Soundtrack Version)

10. For Once In My Life

11. The Birth Of The Blues / I've Gotta Be Me

x

Track List: Capitol Collector's Series (Remastered)

1. I Don't Care Who Knows

2. The Way You Look Tonight

3. Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone

4. I'm Sorry Dear

5. I Ain't Got Nobody

6. Be-Bop The Beguine

7. You Are My Lucky Star

8. Can't You See I've Got The Blues?

9. Dreamy Blues

10. What Can I Do

11. Got A Great Big Shovel

12. We're Gonna Roll

13. Smile, Darn Ya, Smile

14. Dedicated To You

15. Azure

16. Inka Dinka Doo

17. Yours Is My Heart Alone

18. Wagon Wheels

19. Laura

20. Here Lies Love

x

Track List: Live From Australia

2. Bye Bye Blackbird

4. The Candy Man

5. What Kind Of Fool Am I

7. What I Did For Love

8. Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody

10. I've Got You Under My Skin

11. The Birth Of The Blues

13. The Lady Is A Tramp

14. Mr. Bojangles

x

Track List: Porgy And Bess

2. A Woman Is A Sometime Thing

4. I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'

5. Bess, You Is My Woman

6. It Ain't Necessarily So

8. There's A Boat Dat's Leavin' Soon For New York

9. Bess, Oh Where's My Bess

10. Oh Lawd, I'm On My Way

x

Track List: Sings Country Classics

1. What I've Got In Mind

2. Come Sundown

3. Mention A Mansion

4. You're Gonna Love Yourself (In The Morning)

5. Smoke, Smoke, Smoke (That Cigarette)

6. Oh Lonesome Me

7. We Could Have Been The Closest Of Friends

8. Hey Won't You Play (Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song)

9. Please Don't Tell Me How The Story Ends

10. The River's Too Wide

x

Track List: Starring Sammy Davis, Jr.

1. The Lonesome Road

2. Hey There

3. And This Is My Beloved

4. September Song

5. Because Of You

6. Easy To Love

7. Glad To Be Unhappy

8. Stan' Up An' Fight

9. My Funny Valentine

10. Spoken For

11. Birth Of The Blues

x

Track List: That Old Black Magic

1. That Old Black Magic (Single Version)

2. Because Of You

3. Begin The Beguine

4. Chicago

5. The Candy Man

6. Hey There (Single Version)

7. The Birth Of The Blues (Single Version)

8. Something's Gotta Give (Single Version)

9. Don't Get Around Much Anymore

10. Love Me Or Leave Me (Single Version)

x

Track List: The Sammy Awards

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