Sammy Davis Jr. Biography

(Singer, Dancer and Actor Known for His Song ‘The Candy Man’)

Birthday: December 8, 1925 (Sagittarius)

Born In: Harlem, New York, United States

One of the most versatile entertainers to have ever graced the American entertainment industry, Sammy Davis, Jr. was a multifaceted personality. Born as Samuel George Davis, Jr., he was a singer, dancer, actor, and impersonator all rolled into one. As the son of a famous entertainer Sammy Davis, Sr., the junior Sammy entered the show business at the age of three. The highly talented artist rose to overnight fame following a nightclub performance after the Academy Awards event in 1951. An African-American, he was a victim of rampant racism during his younger days; sometimes he was not even allowed to stay in the hotels he performed in as they did not take in black guests. In a protest against this discrimination he refused to perform at venues that practiced segregation. He lost one eye in an unfortunate accident but he courageously bounced back sporting a glass eye which soon became his trademark. He was good friends with Frank Sinatra and was a member of the famous Rat Pack which included performers like Dean Martin and Joey Bishop. He reached the peak of his popularity during the 1960s when he used to be billed as ‘the greatest living entertainer in the world’.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Samuel George Davis Jr.

Died At Age: 64


Spouse/Ex-: Altovise Davis (m.1970–1990), Loray White (m.1958–1959), May Britt (m.1960–1968)

father: Sammy Davis Sr.

mother: Elvera Sanchez

children: Jeff Davis, Manny Davis, Mark Davis, Tracey Davis

Born Country: United States

Quotes By Sammy Davis Jr. African American Singers

Height: 5'5" (165 cm), 5'5" Males

Died on: May 16, 1990

place of death: Beverly Hills, California, United States

Cause of Death: Throat Cancer

City: Harlem, New York

U.S. State: New Yorkers

epitaphs: The Entertainer. He Did it All.

  • 1

    What are some of Sammy Davis Jr.'s most famous songs?

    Some of Sammy Davis Jr.'s most famous songs include "The Candy Man," "Mr. Bojangles," and "I've Gotta Be Me."
  • 2

    What was Sammy Davis Jr.'s contribution to the civil rights movement?

    Sammy Davis Jr. was a prominent supporter of the civil rights movement and used his platform to advocate for racial equality and justice.
  • 3

    Did Sammy Davis Jr. have any significant collaborations with other artists?

    Yes, Sammy Davis Jr. collaborated with artists like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as part of the Rat Pack, and also worked with musicians such as Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald.
  • 4

    How did Sammy Davis Jr. break barriers in the entertainment industry?

    Sammy Davis Jr. broke barriers in the entertainment industry by becoming one of the first African-American performers to achieve mainstream success in various entertainment fields, including music, film, and television.
  • 5

    What impact did Sammy Davis Jr. have on popular culture?

    Sammy Davis Jr. had a significant impact on popular culture, influencing future generations of performers with his versatile talents in singing, dancing, and acting.
Childhood & Early Life
Sammy was born to Sammy Davis Sr. and Elvera Sanchez. He was their only child. Both his parents were vaudeville performers. His parents separated when he was three and his father gained custody of him.
His father worked for a dance troupe led by Will Mastin and Sammy joined them as a child artist. The three of them performed together as the Will Mastin Trio.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army during the World War II. There he experienced racial discrimination for the first time in his life.
Continue Reading Below
While he was serving in the army he was assigned to the entertainment branch Special Services unit. Through his talent and performance he could earn the admiration of even the most prejudiced white men.
He rejoined the Will Mastin trio after his discharge from the army and also began giving solo performances which earned his acclaim.
In 1954, he was chosen to sing the title track for the film ‘Six bridges to Cross’. The song had been written by his friend Jeff Chandler and gave him his first exposure to Hollywood.
He released his debut album ‘Starring Sammy Davis, Jr’ in 1955. His other albums over the next few years included ‘Boy Meets Girl’ (1957) and ‘Mood to Be Wooed’ (1958).
He made his theatrical debut in 1957 with the Broadway musical ‘Mr. Wonderful’ which was created specifically to showcase his talents to the world.
He starred as Danny Johnson in the 1959 movie ‘Anna Lucasta’ which had Eartha Kitt and Henry Scott also.
He became good friends with Frank Sinatra who invited him to join the famous Rat Pack which also included Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.
His first movie with the Rat Pack, ‘Ocean’s 11’ was released in 1960 in which he portrayed the character of Josh Howard, a garbage truck driver.
More movie offers followed and he did ‘Sergeants 3’ in 1962 and ‘Robin and the 7 Hoods’ in 1964, both movies again with the Rat Pack stars. The Rat Pack also performed together in several stage productions.
Continue Reading Below
He was a regular performer at The Frontier Casino in Las Vegas, but even his popularity could not save him from racial discrimination; he was not allowed to stay there because he was black. Hurt by such insensitivity, he refused to perform at venues which practiced racism.
During the 1960s, he enjoyed a very successful musical career which saw the release of several albums like ‘As Long as She Needs Me’ (1963), ‘California Suite’ (1964), ‘That’s All!’ (1966) and ‘Lonely Is the Name’ (1968).
The decade of 1960s was a good one for his film career also. He got the chance to play major roles in films like ‘A Man called Adam’ (1966), ‘Salt and Pepper’ (1968) and ‘Sweet Charity’ (1969).
His album ‘Sammy Davis, Jr. Now’ was released in 1972. It spawned the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit ‘The Candy Man’ which went on to become Davis’s most famous song.
His music career began faltering in the 1970s and even his acting career was not very successful. ‘Gone with the West’ (1975) and ‘Sammy Stops the World’ (1978) were among his few works.
With his musical career virtually over, he focused on his acting during the 1980s. He played small roles in movies like ‘The Cannonball Run’ (1981), ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (1985) and ‘Tap’ (1989).
In addition to his career in music, films and stage, he had also made numerous appearances on television primarily as a guest star.
Major Works
Sammy Davis, Jr. was a talented entertainer who wore multiple hats. He was a stage performer, singer, dancer and actor who left his mark in a wide range of fields. As a singer he was best known for his cover version of the song ‘The Candy Man’.
Continue Reading Below
Awards & Achievements
He was given The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously in 2001 for his outstanding contribution to the field of recording during his lifetime.
Personal Life & Legacy
He was involved in a near-fatal automobile accident in 1954 in which he lost one eye. He later got fitted a glass eye.
Born to a Catholic mother and Protestant father, he formally converted to Judaism in 1961.
He married white actress may Britt in 1960 when interracial marriages were a topic of controversy. They had one biological daughter and adopted two sons before divorcing in 1968.
His second marriage was to dancer Altovise Gore in 1970. The couple had one adopted son.
He suffered from throat cancer and died in 1990.
Facts About Sammy Davis Jr.

Sammy Davis Jr. was also an accomplished photographer and enjoyed capturing candid moments of his friends and fellow performers.

He was an avid collector of cars and owned a wide variety of luxury vehicles throughout his life.

He was known for his love of jewelry and often adorned himself with flashy rings, bracelets, and necklaces.

He had a passion for magic and was skilled in performing sleight of hand tricks, often incorporating them into his live performances.


Grammy Awards
2001 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
1963 Song of the Year Winner
Recommended Lists:

See the events in life of Sammy Davis Jr. in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Sammy Davis Jr. Biography
- Editors,

People Also Viewed

May Britt Biography
May Britt
Altovise Davis Biography
Altovise Davis
Taylor Swift Biography
Taylor Swift
Carl Weathers Biography
Carl Weathers
Timothée Chalamet Biography
Timothée Chalamet
Usher Biography
Drake Bell Biography
Drake Bell