Samuel George “Sammy” Davis, Jr. simply known as Sammy Davis Jr., was an acclaimed American entertainer of the 20th century. Born in Harlem, New York on December 8, 1925, Davis spent the better half of his life enjoying the rare skill of making other people happy. While he was primarily a singer and dancer, he was also an actor (stage and screen), musician, and impressionist. He mainly derived his passion for dancing from his father and uncle, with whom he was to form the Will Mastin Trio. One of the main themes highlighted in his performances was that of racism, as he was also a long-standing victim of racial prejudices throughout his life.
When Davis was only three years old, he formed the Will Mastin Trio with his father and uncle, and toured nationally giving some exceptional performances. During World War II, he was assigned to an entertainment Special Services unit, as his talents were especially recognized by the military. Such was the profoundness of his performances that his acts were even well-received and applauded by White servicemen. After the war, he re-joined the family group, often being the sole recipient of endless standing ovations for his mesmerizing performances. His voice was admired to a great extent, which eventually led to him being selected to sing the sound track for the Universal Pictures film Six Bridges to Cross in 1954. Around the same time, Davis also had a starring role in the Broadway play Mr. Wonderful (1956), which furthered his prominence in the show business. In 1959, he became an official member of the Rat Pack, alongside group members such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford. They went on to make several movies together, as well as perform for large audiences in cities including Las Vegas. Some of the movies they produced together included Ocean’s Eleven (1960), Sergeants Three (1962), and Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964).
The 1960s marked a significant period in Davis’ career, and also one of the busiest of his professional career. In 1964, he was starring in the musical Golden Boy during the night, while spending the rest of the day hosting his own TV show called The Sammy Davis Jr. Show (1966). Around the same time, he was working on several music albums, performing at various charity concerts and also doing television variety specials. By the late 1960s, however, Davis’ music career took the back seat, and the earlier popularity received by his music was slowly withering away. In the midst of this entire decline, he did manage to attain a No. 11 hit with “I’ve Gotta Be Me” in 1969. What was the most shocking turnout was his No. 1 hit single “The Candy Man” in 1972. During the latter half of his career, Davis concentrated more on his interest in soap operas, occasionally casting in shows such as General Hospital and One Life to Live. He was eventually nominated for a Daytime Emmy in 1980 for One Life to Live.
Davis passed away in Beverly Hills, California, on May 16, 1990 due to a hard-fought battle with throat cancer. Davis has been commemorated in several films after his death, most notably in a film called The Rat Pack (1998), where Don Cheadle plays his title character. In 2001, Sammy Davis Jr. was also awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for his tremendous contributions to the American entertainment industry.