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Yes I Can: The Story of Sammy Davis, Jr.

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  562 ratings  ·  44 reviews
YES I CAN is the self-portrait of one of the extraordinary men of our time, who became a figure of controversy because he dared to live his life not as a Negro but as a man. "I've got to be a star like another man has to breathe," write Sammy Davis. "I've got to get so big, so powerful, so famous that the day will come when they'll look at me and see a man, and then ...more
Kindle Edition, 674 pages
Published August 21st 2012 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (first published 1965)
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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 ·  562 ratings  ·  44 reviews


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Kate
Feb 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, race-stuff
I read this in 7th grade. Imagine that, a little white suburban girl in 1973 COMPLETELY INFATUATED with the 40- or 50-something black member of the rat pack. I still remember huge parts of Yes I Can, especially the part where Sammy gets into a car accident and helps the lady out of the other car, all the while his eyeball was dangling down onto his cheek. That's the sort of image sticks with you. It was very gallant of Sammy Davis Jr. to take care of the lady in the other car before looking out ...more
James Roman
Jun 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a powerful and insightful autobiography! Sammy Davis Jr. found success as America sorted through anguished incidents of violence and matter-of-fact racism. The chronicle of his life within that context, when civil rights was overtaking Jim Crow, makes this autobiography a real page-turner.

From his start as a child onstage in vaudeville, where back doors were the norm for "coloreds," to his success as an adult on Broadway, in films, television and in nightclubs, eventually gave him access
...more
Scott Fuchs
May 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Informative, very well written, and so damn moving. A terrific read! This is far from the typical celeb bio.
Janis
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I still think of things that Sammy Davis talked about in his book.
Judd
Everybody has a different opinion when it comes to the greatest entertainer of all time. The Beatles, Elvis, Michael Jackson, etc. but I don't think there SHOULD be any argument as to who the most talented entertainer of all time is. Mr. Show Business himself, Sammy Davis Jr. The Greatest Entertainer of All Time. The name really deserves no introduction but I was blown away by how many of my friends and coworkers had no idea who he was. The closest I got was, "I think I've heard of him." He ...more
Lisa
Jun 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“I have to be a star like another man has to breathe.” ~ Sammy Davis Jr.

I really enjoyed this. It was honest, vulnerable, and covered a good deal of his life...Being raised in show business by his father and "uncle," his stint in the Army, his early career and breaks, the loss of his eye, his conversion to Judaism, his scandalous affairs, his first and second marriage, his friends in and out of show business, his debt, and much more.

But the theme threaded from cover to cover was racism and how
...more
Justin Cordes
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy schnikes. This book effin rocks! I bought this tattered used copy off a street vendor in NYC, let it sit on my bookshelf for a year and after reading just the first few pages it just blew my mind. It felt like I was reading an insanely well-crafted pot boiler and can't put the thing down. There was no moment of the book where I was bored.

On the other hand, I just started reading Rita Moreno's memoir and while interesting it's got a lot of fat and I found myself totally skimming through
...more
Gabrielle
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
WHAT A BOOK

I am staggered by how this was published in the 60s while being such an indictment of American racism. Staggered.

**update**

After sleeping on it I now think it is a 5 star read. My criticism is that it is too long and needed a sympathetic edit. But honestly that may have also ruined the book and whitewashed it so five stars it is!
Matt Bucklin
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing story about possibly the best performer in history. It was more than his talent that made him so impressive. As someone who was a victim of racial bias, had the strength to overcome and thrive, with a positive attitude, and a view of racial issues that would be considered wise and evolved, even by today's standards.
June
Feb 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a pivotal book for me. So much heart here. I learned about Sammy Davis Jr.'s experience in the army, his rise to fame, and difficult experiences with discrimination. His childhood stories are engaging and fun too.
Sharon Beers
This is an early biography of Sammy Davis, Jr. that well captures the events of his life in show business from his childhood on. It details the racism he experienced and the acclaim he achieved. He was an incredibly talented man who left a wonderful legacy of music.
Joseph
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this when I was but 15 years old.
Found his story to be thought-provoking.
Was especially intrigued by his statement
that he would consider racism on the wane
when Blacks were depicted on TV and film as
ordinary respectable people with good jobs
and not just waiters, maids and flunkeys.
Emilie Leming
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this when I was in 8th grade & loved it... it seemed to strike a chord about what a person can do with determination & faith in oneself. Great book, even 50+ years later.
Bradley
Apr 09, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Sammy Davis Jr and racism. This is a good book, well worth reading.
Natalie
Jun 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cinema, memoirs, rock-roll
one of my favorite books of all time: I LOVE stories about people overcoming obstacles through a winning combination of talent + Judaism + sex + hard-earned confidence!
Unigami
Jan 19, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Very interesting and inspirational story of a truly talented entertainer. Recommended.
Jeter
Jan 31, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished
Oh hell yeah. Sammy D tells a special story of love won and lost and the majesty of living large from the 50s through the 70s. He's a good storyteller, and he has an epic story to tell.
Cammie
Jul 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it loved it loved it! I knew OF Sammy Davis Jr but just decided to take this out of the library one day and could not put it down.
Aine
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great read! Opens eyes into how black people were actually treated in the Hollywood scene back in the day. Without sounding like a sobstory! This is a man who DID!
Megan Cooper
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I decided to read this after hearing a Revisionist History podcast about Sammy Davis, Jr. Wow. So much I didn’t know...I grew up loving him as an entertainer, and was totally oblivious to the struggles he faced and the near-impossibility of making a choice or taking a stance that wasn’t going to draw the ire of either/both white and black communities. What a remarkable person—flawed and fabulous, both.
Mike Willey
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I feel like I got to know the good and the bad of SDJr. Bummer that it stopped after the birth of his first child. This is not just about a black guy trying to make it in a world that often mistreated him because of the color of his skin. You also learn a lot about how deep poverty can leave scars no matter how much wealth you ultimately gain. Great book!
Joni Daniels
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sammy Davis Jr.’s life reads like a work of fiction. For those that remember him as the consummate entertainer - actor, singer, dancer, impressionist, musician and icon, his struggles to achieve are as astounding and impressive
Tammy Dayton
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. Devoured every word. All Mr. Davis wanted was to be treated as an equal to other superstars. Just an unbelievable good book.
Shenard Robinson
Definitely worthing reading and understanding how phenomenal the span of his career has been after learning how it all began.
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I'm trying to finish this book. When I saw how long it is, I was surprised to see on Goodreads that Mr Davis has published several other volumes of memoirs. Wow. Quite an output.

I found his story interesting when he tells of his childhood: abandoned by a showgirl mother to his paternal grandmother, he is raised in isolation from other children. He is not allowed to attend school, instead Grandma Rosa turns "hiding from the truant officer" into a fun game. When she takes him to the park, others
...more
Scott Skipper
Oct 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-published
Yes I Can is, first, the story of a remarkable entertainer as told to his close friends, Jane and Burt Boyar, in the 1960’s. It is also a frank, painful and intimate exposé of racism as it existed during the lifetime of Sammy Davis, Jr. as well as an insider’s look at the day-to-day lives of the brightest luminaries in show business.

The twenty-first century reader who is sufficiently padded with years will recall with dismay the days of institutionalized segregation. Although it has diminished,
...more
Jennifer Arnow
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started this book not knowing much about SDJ. I ended this book adoring him & interested in his entire life. The book itself was written in the late '60s, so it only covers his life until that point. I had no idea his entertainment history, nor what an impact he made on his fellow performers. It also gave me insight into what life was like for black men in the early part of the last century, at times infuriatingly so. It was a pleasure to read anecdotes about steps other (white) performers ...more
Alex
Jun 05, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is an extremely long and detailed book. It is the autobiography of Sammy Davis, jr. published in 1966 while he was still married to his second wife. At times tedious, I stuck it out because of the race aspect. SDJ broke down many barriers - was the first black performer to perform in certain clubs, stay in certain hotels, etc. - and endured a lot of backlash due to this from both blacks and whites. The book which covers his career and performing (obviously) is really written about being a ...more
Nada
Oh Sammy, Sammy, Sammy....!

This is an important and a powerful autobiography as it tells the story of Samuel George Davis Jr. from before his birth up until the sixties. Sammy shares his incredible story starting from the very beginning as a four year old performer with the Will Mastin trio to his struggles with prejudice and discrimination–especially during his time in the army, which changed him forever. He details the long road he took to freedom–the freedom to just be–and the rough climb to
...more
Rachel
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book, Not only do you learn a lot about his strudels but also the society he grew up in.
The every day battles he had to fight to get to the top, whilst keeping his humor.
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Samuel George "Sammy" Davis, Jr. (December 8, 1925 – May 16, 1990) was an American entertainer. Primarily a dancer and singer, he also had many acting roles on stage and screen, and was noted for his impersonations of actors and other celebrities.
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