WHY ME? BY SAMMY DAVIS JR.
To the man who wanted and could do anything and everything. I finally read your book. Why me? I put off reading the book because I felt some level of fear.
I must have watched all of his documentaries and listened to all of his albums but my mind kept telling me not to read something he struggled to create and something that smelt of personal emotion but Sammy Davis Jr. has become a forgotten artist.
What ushered me to buy the biography was after I found and watched an interview with Sammy Davis Jr and how he was stating his drug issue and debt. There was an element of minor humour in the interview which was silently cheerful in the unexpected gruesome answering. The interview lured me to read the book because Davis said, “I’m still trying to get high.” An intense sentence leaving me tongue-tied. This was in confession to Davis’s drug addiction over the years and how he had debt twice, nearly three times.
I bought Why Me? by Sammy Davis Jr Instead of Yes I Can because of the age. Why Me? Was realised in 1989 approximately one year before his passing. Yes I Can was realised in 1975. In the middle of his second debt.
I purposely avoided reading the reviews for this biography because I felt my worry build. I had a hunch of what was the truth and like most people, sometimes the truth isn’t what we favour or find pleasure in. We secretly know the troubling answer. I knew Davis’s.
I felt this because there are influential aspect to this man that I find enriching. However, he was no a suitable idol to follow.
Sammy Davis Jr. appeared to be one of the most hyperactive, cheerful, talented artists to have ever lived. He could have sung any tune and had danced any step. What made Davis so magnificent was that he had the ability to make any song his own.
I recommend Who Can I Turn To? Originally sung by Anthony Newly and I Got a Woman originally sung by Ray Charles. Davis’s touch on these songs gave them a whole new
Davis revealed how he met and became inspired and friended Frank Sinatra. The biography notes the emotional attachment Davis had towards Sinatra with inappropriate stories, insecurities, heartbreak, frustration and anger.
Sinatra refused to communicate with Davis during Davis’s cocaine addiction, simply because Sinatra was ashamed and disappointed with the way Davis had turned.
Davis saw Sinatra walking on his own in LA downtown. Sinatra looked unpleased, unsatisfied but Davis could not identify why. He kept asking himself “why would a man like that be walking downtown, on his own, at this hour?”
As the reader, it was staggering to read this. It felt like fiction because I knew more than him. Rumours about Davis’s drug addiction was louder than he realised.
”Dear God, I don’t deserve all this. Why Me?”
Two scenes followed with the almost unbelievable conversation but expected small appearance of Elvis Presley in the early 70s. Sammy Davis Jr stated his opinion on Elvis Presley with an almost jealous aspect as Davis glared at Presley’s jewellery and screaming females. The one flaming view Davis pointed out on was Presley’s weight at that date, mentioning his concern and troubling view on Presley’s emotional sensitivity.
The photo gallery in this biography includes people he worked with and people he met along the way. It just might make you smile, laugh and weep. The first photograph is of him at age nine with Samuel Sr. and Will Mastin. His father and uncle. Underneath this photograph is a quote, in-conversation “I can out dance you” “oh yeah? What makes you think that” Samuel Sr asked. “’Cause you taught me everything I know” Davis replied. Davis’s facial expression in the photograph provides a passionate idealism.
With further pictures of Milton Berle, Fred Astaire, May Britt, James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr with a personal quote “we ain’t what we oughta be, we ain’t what we wanta be. We ain’t what we gonna be but thank God we ain’t what we was.” Jack Benny, George Burns, Nancy Wilson, Eartha Kitt, Sidney Poitier, Dinah Shore, Burt Reynolds, Gary Morton, Berry Gordy, Marlon Brando. His last wife Altovise. Jesse Jackson, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra. Carroll O’Connor with the kiss scene from All in the Family, Sammy’s Visit.
Before Sammy Davis Jr’s up-coming exhibition he was apart of the “portrait of a One-Man show.” Being rather impressed with himself for caring for thirteen people, plus containerising and shipping six thousand five hundred pounds of equipment and personal effects. Davis has added a small gallery of the members; Earl Jolly Brown, Morty Stevens, Fip Richard, Brian Dellow, James Leary, Bernard Wilson, Clayton Cameron, George Genna, Dino Meminger, Frank Accardo.
Davis gave some insight into the history of this company. Including Michael Jackson and how he brought on hundred thousand pounds worth of equipment and staff during his tour and how Jackson had a crew of one hundred and fifty with two hairdressers and two chefs, even though Jackson only ate two carrots for breakfast and did not eat on Tuesdays.
A final collaboration photograph is with Michael Jackson with a short story on how Jackson used to visit and asked for Davis’s tapes, to see the shows Davis had done. “Y’know, I stole some moves from you, the attitudes.” Jackson is quoted.
The gallery ends with him belting out a song on stage. The photograph gives me goosebumps as the background remains black and the spotlight is constantly on his body. The photograph makes me believe he is still alive. This portrait has no writing underneath, no credit, no quote. It has an unearthly, mysterious appeal to it.
I must read on.
The reoccurring questions throughout this biography were “why am I being discriminated against for being black?” and “Why did God single me out for such stardom and an extraordinary life?”
With Sammy Davis Jr and his determination and uncharted emotion, his fame was relived continuously throughout this life. He quite literally lived Frank Sinatra’s song That’s Life over and over again. He was struck down and then brought back up nearly every decennial. Even with his up and downs, Davis knew how to make money. Unfortunately, he was better at spending it, leaving him broke nearly three times.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is studying the history of black culture, musical arts or anyone who is curious to know who Sammy Davis Jr really is.
I did not want to put this biography down. I had become more attached to the marvellous, multi-talented man, as his honesty had latched onto each detailed page.
Sammy Davis Jr’s account of his life appeared honest and real. It revealed his impressions from childhood to aging which was incredibly fascinating. He had overcome incredible barriers. He wasn't shy to reveal his insecurities and how he addressed and conquered them.
Davis revealed to be much more than performer. We find Sammy to be an activist, comedian, swinger, a great human being. His friendship with Frank Sinatra is shown to be pivotal in his giving up drugs. Another laugh and cry biography.
I felt like I really got to know Sammy Davis Jr even though it was before my time.