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Unraveling The Sammy Davis Jr. Mystery

Unraveling The Sammy Davis Jr. Mystery

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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There are few American icons with as much cultural baggage as Sammy Davis Jr. It's like Elvis; he's been so maligned in death that it's easy to forget the magnitude of his talent. Well, stop. And watch this.

That's right — Sammy Davis Jr. was a complex character — he was accused of many things in his life and career, but above all, he was a consummate showman. That clear, sweet voice, imbued with humor and oodles of personality — there's nothing like it.

Today, we're talking with Matt Birkbeck — he's written a new book called Deconstructing Sammy: Music, Money, Madness, and the Mob. It's essentially a mystery tale, a piece of investigative journalism that unravels what happened to Davis' estate, and in the process reveals more about the man that we knew. Birkbeck spoke to people that have never spoken before — and the portrait of Sammy that emerges is difficult, demanding, and ultimately tragic. His legacy was besmirched by people that took advantage of him — but the truest legacy is the one above — his remarkable talent. Tell us how you saw Sammy Davis Jr. — entertainer? Civil rights campaigner? Mobster? Parent?