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This Day In History: December 8th
Multifaceted performer and musician Sammy Davis Jr. rose to popularity during the 1950s and maintained a successful career for more than three decades. In addition to being a well-known talent, Davis also made sure to advocate for civil rights.
Here are five things to know about the late Sammy Davis Jr.!
- A Performer From A Young Age. Samuel George Davis Jr. was born on December 8, 1925, in Harlem, New York. His father was a vaudevillian who introduced him to performing and took him on tour with him. Davis soon learned how to tap dance and became a part of the Will Mastin Trio. His time with the Will Mastin Trio gave him the push he needed to go solo and start recording songs and performing at nightclubs.
- Appearances In Film And Theater Productions. Davis made his first film appearance in Rufus Jones for President (1933). He made his Broadway debut in the musical Mr. Wonderful (1956). As his music career soared, Davis made more appearances in productions such as Anna Lucasta (1958), Porgy and Bess (1959), Ocean’s 11 (1960), A Man Called Adam (1966) and Sweet Charity (1969). Davis also made television appearances on The Jeffersons, The Frank Sinatra Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. In 1966, he hosted his own show, The Sammy Davis Jr. Show, although it was short-lived. Nearly a decade later, he hosted Sammy and Company for two years.
- Singing Career And Touring With The Rat Pack. The performer signed with Decca Records in 1954 and released his first two albums in 1955 titled Starring Sammy Davis Jr. and Sammy Davis Jr. Sings Just for Lovers. During the 1960s, Davis was part of the Rat Pack alongside Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. The Rat Pack became popular figures in New York City and Los Angeles nightclubs. Davis continued to release music and earned his first no. 1 single in 1972 with his song “The Candy Man.”
- Social Activism. Although Davis enjoyed a superstar status, that did not make him exempt from the harsh realities of American racism. Davis would often refuse to perform in segregated nightclubs and aligned himself with political figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. He became an active member of the civil rights movement and even took part in the March On Washington.
- The Legacy Of Sammy Davis Jr. The singer, dancer, actor and comedian was a man of many talents. His talents earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 1960. Davis is also a recipient of the NAACP Spingarn Medal and two Kennedy Center Honors. In 2001, Davis was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and his song, “What Kind of Fool Am I?” was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.
Sammy Davis Jr. continued entertaining audiences with his singing and dancing until his death on May 16, 1990. His life has been chronicled in autobiographies, including “Yes I Can: The Story of Sammy Davis Jr.” (1965), “Why Me?” (1980) and “In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr.” (2003).