December 8 ~  Be An Original Yes, I Can

"Imitations only better the original." ~ Sammy Davis, Jr.

entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr.

Born on this day in Harlem, New York, entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. (1925-1990) was certainly an original who lived an upbeat life despite physical and spiritual challenges. His mainstream success and fame blazed the trail for future African American entertainers.

"I was brought up in the business that said there was room for every body, for all tastes," he said."That's why they call it variety."

Self-educated, the multi-talented baritone, dancer, and actor joined his adopted uncle's vaudeville troupe as a toddler and was coached by the legendary tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.

"I guess I was meant for show business even before I was born," the five-feet-six-inch Davis once said.

Known for his boundless energy, Davis was a member of mentor Frank Sinatra's illustrious Rat Pack. In 1954, he signed with Decca Records, then lost his left eye (and nearly his life) in a tragic car crash.

"Wishing, hoping and regretting are the most common and dangerous tactics for evading the present," observed Davis. In 1964, he dazzled the Broadway stage with his role as a prize fighter in Golden Boy. He topped the charts in 1972 with the unforgettable pop hit The Candy Man.

A passionate performer who celebrated life 100%, Davis was also a leader in the civil rights movement. To help promote "positive images of people of color," he helped create the NAACP Image Awards in 1967. The special recognition continues to be a tangible way to celebrate achievements and performances.

"Part of show business is magic," he said. "You don't know how it happens."

Be an original.