Undoubtedly, Sammy Davis Jr. was a versatile singer, dancer, and actor who shone in much more unique America than that of today. Being a black man in this world exacted Davis to overcome uncountable hurdles throughout his life. Despite all these difficulties he still holds a rank among one of the greatest entertainers of all time.
And also in 2001, he was awarded a posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Born in Harlem, New York he was only three years old when his parents got separated. After separation, Davis lived with his father and both of them were touring around. The public quickly fell in love with him when Davis debuted by the name “Baby Sammy.” Later, when he came to learn about the entertainment world, Junior Davis became part of the Will Mastin Trio including his father and uncle.
When he was 18, he hardly experienced any race differentiation as his father and uncle did their best to safeguard him. However, when combat began, Davis became part of the Army’s Special Services branch, which delivered entertainment for the troops those years were suffering for the young Davis as soldiers joked about his skin color. In his autobiography, Sammy: “An Autobiography: with Material Newly Revised from Yes I Can and Why Me?” He shared how he was treated with dishonor. One time, soldiers fractured his nose and even colored him in white color.
“Overnight the world looked different. It wasn’t one color anymore. I could see the safety I’d gotten all my life from my father and Will. I appreciated their loving hope that I’d never need to know about bias and bitterness, but they were wrong. It was as if I’d walked through a swinging door for 18 years, a door which they had always privately held open,” he wrote.
On those difficult days, sergeant Williams stood for Davis and taught him to use his talent and strong vocal in the quarrel in front of those who disdained him for who he was.
“My talent was the projectile, the strength, the way for me to combat. It was the one way I might hope to affect a man’s thinking,” Davis later said.
After the clash was over, he turned to the Will Mastin Trio again which opened for Frank Sinatra at the Capitol Theater in New York.
Seemingly, Sinatra was astonished by Davis’ talent and ultimately they became best friends, safeguarding him whenever there was race differentiation. According to Davis, Sinatra would ignore sleeping in hotels where Davis wasn’t welcome because of his skin complexion and he would also not choose contracts if his best friend wasn’t allowed on stage once Davis said, “With all the race differentiation I underwent, I never turned around and disdained right back.” He added, “There was always some white guy like Sergeant Williams or Frank Sinatra, who supported me back up.”
Apart from his successful career, Davis’s life was also surrounded by controversies. For instance, switching to Judaism, marrying Swedish-born white actress May Britt. In 1954, Davis was entangled in a car collision where he sacrificed his eye. He also endured a h-ip alternate sur-gery which staved off him from dancing on stage.
His marriage wasn’t celebrated by the wide public as for people back then it wasn’t felt justice that a black man should marry a white woman. As a clear conclusion, Davis’ performance at President Kennedy’s inauguration was discontinued as it was understood it would ravage the sphere. And later Davis’ daughter confirmed it as she published a book about her father. According to CBC, she said, “He wanted me to keep it going. He wanted people to know his music and what he stood for and what he did and what kind of person he was. And I think he knew intuitively that I was the one to do it.”
Tracy was Davis’ only biological child, however, he had three adopted sons as well.
Davis leave this world because of throat illness at the age of 64. He refused to undergo treatment because he wished his voice would remain untouched.