Yes I Can Book Summary By Sammy Davis, Jr. and Jane and Burt Boyar

*This post contains affiliate links, and we may earn an affiliate commission without it ever affecting the price you pay.

Yes I Can Book

Book Name: Yes I Can (The Story of Sammy Davis Jr.)

Author(s): Sammy Davis, Jr. and Jane and Burt Boyar

Rating: 4.8/5

Reading Time: 36 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

Sammy Davis Jr (1925-1990) was a multi-talented artist and entertainer who captured the hearts and imaginations of people around the world.

He was an accomplished singer, actor, dancer, and comedian, with a career that spanned five decades.

He rose to fame in the 1950s as part of a vaudeville trio with his father, and went on to perform on Broadway, in Las Vegas, on television, and in hit movies such as Ocean’s 11.

He even wrote two autobiographies- Yes I Can, and Why Me?- which offer insight into his story telling abilities as well as his remarkable life experiences.

If you want to know more about Sammy Davis Jr's life and legacy in entertainment then these are definitely worth reading.

The Comfort Book: 14 Ways To Find Resilience In Difficult Times

Difficult Times

Introducing Sammy Davis, Jr., one of entertainment’s most legendary figures.

He dazzled audiences with a wide range of abilities – dancing, singing, comedy, impressions and playing music all in one electrifying package.

His lifetime achievements are especially impressive when you consider the racism he faced as a black performer at the start of his career.

Yet no matter what obstacles were thrown in his way, Sammy Davis kept pushing forward and eventually made enormous progress in the realm of integrating American entertainment.

No longer did he have to enter clubs through the back entrances – they had to adjust their rules if they wanted access to his incredible talent!

Throughout it all, Sammy Davis continued striving to better himself and leave an indelible mark on the world of showbusiness.

So let’s take a closer look into his story and discover what kept driving him forward despite all odds.

Gandhi Learns A Lasting Lesson About Giving In To Lust And The Importance Of Acceptance

In Chapter 1 of Sammy Davis, Jr.’s autobiography Yes I Can, readers are introduced to the formidable circumstances in which he began his career as a performer.

Sammy was born in 1925 in Harlem and both of his parents were professional dancers.

They were members of Will Mastin’s popular vaudeville troupe that toured America and performed a variety of acts from comedy sketches, to tap dancing and cliche songs.

However, since the audiences for these shows were largely made up of white people, the team was often forced to perform stereotypical racial caricatures.

Sammy vehemently disliked the use of blackface for these performances but it was deemed necessary for them to make money as Black entertainers at this time.

When Sammy was three years old, his parents separated and Mason assumed custody with Sammy following him on the road as they toured with their act.

Gandhi Leaves India To Pursue Big Dreams But Faced Unexpected Challenges Along The Way

Big Dreams

In Chapter 2 of Yes I Can, we follow Sammy Davis Jr.

as he moves from vaudeville success with his father and uncle to his brief stint in the US Army.

As a 15-year old, Sammy had been touring the country with “The Will Mastin Trio” performing tap dancing routines that earned them enough money to stay afloat.

But when talkies took over movie theaters everything changed and the trio was almost out of luck before they decided to move to Harlem in the 1940s.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be hard to make ends meet in Harlem as well and Sammy had plenty of time on his hands to dream with how one day his name would be up in lights outside of a club like The Copacabana.

Then came World War II and a chance for patriotism when Sammy got drafted into the army at age 18.

With enthusiasm he set off for basic training despite warnings from his father about doing what you’re supposed to regardless of any potential trouble.

Upon arriving, Sammy quickly realized all too well what ‘being Black’ meant in an environment as closed off and hostile as the US military was at that time: insults, threats and avoidance being commonplace among many other things even more heinous than those.

But on top of it all he still managed to express himself through dance for which he had a natural aptitude; soon reaping some reward when he got reassigned away from such an abrasive backdrop towards army “Special Services” where he toured around entertaining troops while also experiencing first hand how racism can shape everyday life with prejudice against interracial socializing being so rampant.

How Mohandas Gandhi Used His Experiences In South Africa To Fuel An Activist Movement For Change

This chapter of Sammy Davis Jr’s autobiography, Yes I Can, discusses the Will Mastin Trio’s return to performing after Sammy spent time in the Army.

It also dives into some of Sammy’s new ideas for their act, including eliminating racist caricatures and incorporating white celebrity impersonations, an idea met with trepidation by many around him.

Sammy describes these five years as difficult but determinedly worked to make the trio a success.

He had close showbiz friends such as Frank Sinatra who offered encouragement and valuable advice on stardom.

Even so, no matter how much fame he attained, he never felt fulfilled until being accepted into the Copacabana club–a goal long-thwarted due to racism–which finally came true with help from Sinatra.

By Chapter 3 of his memoirs, Sammy was pushing themsleves relentlessly to break out of the mold of opening acts and reach a level where their talents could be appreciated rather than merely tolerated.

He is searching for that magical “elixir” which can turn a performer from good to great; something he hopes to uncover by spending nights performing in bigger cities like Los Angeles.

Gandhi’S Response To Injustice: An Inspiring Example Of Nonviolent Noncooperation

Gandhi'S Response To Injustice

In Chapter 4 of the Yes I Can Book Summary, Sammy Davis Jr.

finds himself on the cusp of career-making success.

He and The Will Mastin Trio are flying across the country to perform in major clubs, and Sammy’s TV debut alongside Eddie Cantor receives a lot of press coverage – both good and bad.

Death threats begin to pour in from people who don’t agree with this newfound equality, but what really matters is that it drives up popularity for Sammy.

The crowning moment in this chapter comes when he’s offered a date to headline the Copacabana in New York City – one of the biggest nights out there for established talent.

Standing on that stage at last was an incredible feeling for Sammy – it made him feel like all his hard work had paid off.

Sadly though, despite all this professional success, Sammy struggles with inner demons he has been suppressing for many years.

In Las Vegas while headlining a month-long show, he was involved in a terrible car accident that left him injured and having to wear an eyepatch over his eye while he recovered.

While still maintaining being top fad, these personal he’d had been wrestling with began to catch up too him eventually leading him into feelings of loneliness and depression as his time in the spotlight waned down.

How Trevor Used His Language Skills, Business Savvy And Sense Of Humor To Navigate Post-Apartheid South Africa

In Chapter 5 of his autobiography “Yes I Can”, Sammy Davis Jr.

discusses the difficulties he faced in his entertainment career due to the realities of racism and discrimination that existed at the time.

In 1954, while achieving celebrity status, Davis found himself constantly attacked by gossip columnists who fabricated romantic relationships between him and blonde white women.

Even though it was illegal to marry someone of another race in many parts of the US, these reports suggested that Sammy was ‘flouting customs’, causing papers to sell with sensational headlines.

Additionally, not only did he face racism from outside sources, but he also experienced criticism from Black newspapers for continuing to focus on bridging gaps between a white audience.

This pigeonholing gave some people the impression that he had become an ‘Uncle Tom’ figure, greatly impacting how Sammy viewed himself at the time.

The exhaustion from this led him to start partying heavily and spending money uncontrollably.

This caused a rift between his father and Will Mastin which ended up driving them away from their act.

Eventually came desperate enough to drive off a cliff near his Hollywood mansion in a moment of despair, but miraculously survived with only minor injuries.

If you’re heading off to bed, I wish for your restful sleep and sweet dreams!

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.