At the bottom of this page is a 'good Luck' note
Eva wrote. Click it and you will hear Eva joke with
and perform part of 'Over the Rainbow' for a small select
Eva Cassidy was born 2 February 1963. Growing up
in a musical family on the outskirts of Washington,
DC, she sang as a small child and later learned to play
the guitar. Even then as a child she had an amazing
gift for perfect harmony, and on family outings, she
would sing, harmonising perfectly with the music from
the car radio. Her father, a teacher of children with
learning disabilities and a part-time musician, formed
a family band with Eva,
her brother Danny, on violin, and himself on bass. She
endured school, preferring her own company and, whenever
possible, being involved with music and painting.
In 1986 she did the art work for a projected album
by a band, Method Actor, led by a friend, Dave Lourim.
She was asked to sing on the album and was heard by
producer Chris Biondo who, impressed by her raw talent,
encouraged her and introduced her to other musicians.
Cassidy appeared on several albums as a backing singer,
including E-40's I Wanna Thank You. Meantime, Biondo
was stockpiling tapes by Cassidy and in 1991, while
recording Chuck Brown And The Soul Searchers, played
examples for the group's leader. Brown was immediately
taken with her sound, as indeed would be other artists
including Roberta Flack and Shirley Horn, and in 1992
Eva and Chuck recorded The Other Side (Liaison).
Early the following year
Chuck Brown and Eva Cassidy began performing live, including
an appearance at
Washington's Blues Alley. The collaboration with
Chuck Brown was one which Eva would value very highly.
They performed well together. seem to blend instinctively,
and they respected and admired each other as artists.
Later in the year, following
a medical check-up, Eva Cassidy had outpatient surgery
for a malignant skin lesion on her back. Early in 1994
she recorded for Blue Note Records and toured with the
group Pieces Of A Dream, but, unlike the sessions with
Brown, she found this musically unsatisfying. In January
1996 she appeared at Blues Alley again, a session that
was recorded, but when summer came she was unwell. Eva
had been experiencing pain in her hip for some time.
At the time she was working for a friend in Annapolis
on murals in schools cafeterias, and she put the soreness
down to too much ladder work. Eventually Eva had a number
of tests. Although cancer was suspected, only after
several more tests, was the diagnosis confirmed: advanced
melanoma. She was told that she had three to five months
Eva was admitted to Johns
Hopkins hospital. A constant stream of friends kept
coming, bringing her fruit and flowers. She felt badly
that these were going to waste, so she asked someone
to bring in paper and crayons. Often she could not see
her visitors because of the regimen she had, so this
way she helped her visitors to express themselves to
her. When one stepped off the elevator and saw the hallways
lined with people sitting on the floor colouring, talking
and getting to know each other; it was a wonderful scene
to behold. Eva had every picture hung on the big wall
at the end of her bed so she could see them.
a tribute concert was organised. It was a moving occasion
for all. There were different artists playing all night.
Eva Cassidy came out with Chuck Brown at the end. They
chose "Red Top" for her, so she wouldn't have
to sing much. He covered her with his animated style,
letting her just stand and join in. It was a warm partnership
in song. But then she had someone bring her a stool,
and sat down to play and sing, "What a Wonderful
World". It was amazing that she pulled together
all that strength to do the number- and of course all
who knew her were all stunned. That was the last song
Eva Cassidy sang in public. It was one of those times
that those who were there, will never forget. After
the concert Eva had a couple of hundred 'thank
you' cards made. She made a little drawing for it,
a heart-shaped smiling face. When friends would visit
later, they would find her bent over her pen, handwriting
notes on all the cards. She had very little energy and
stamina to sit, but she used that time to thank people.
On her Brother Danny's last
visit shortly before Eva passed away, he recorded the
violin track for " I know You By Heart". Later
her father, brother and friends played a concert for
her outside her bedroom window.
Eva Cassidy died on 2nd November
1996. She was only 33 years old.
The memorial service later
that month was in Greenbelt park, Maryland with the
sun shining. It was as Eva would have wanted. Her brother
played the violin. Friends sang. Over four hundred people
came. A most wonderful voice had been stilled. Yet as
Sian and Peter Charlton say so beautifully in their
wonderful Welsh tribute to Eva: 'Sibrwd
yn yr Yd' (a Whisper in the Corn)
dal i ganu.
dy glywed yn y glaw
yn yr yd
- somewhere still singing.
can hear you in the rain
never ending inspiration
whisper in the corn - still singing
Eva's singing voice was a
crystalline soprano, ideal for the ballads and folk
songs she performed. But she also had tremendous power
and when she turned to soul and gospel-flavoured
material her voice resounded with emotional sincerity.
Her repertoire drew from all these areas and from the
more melodic aspects of contemporary pop. While she
might be placed only on the edges of jazz her conviction
and integrity would often ably carry her over the hazy
boundary. The excellent interpretation of Sting 's 'Fields
Of Gold', on 'Live at Blues Alley' and (minus the applause)
on the compilation album 'Songbird', is breathtaking
in clarity and delivery, and ofcourse her now famous
interpretation of "Over the Rainbow".
Most of her recorded work
displays a remarkable and unspoiled talent, and almost
all of it has been released posthumously. Although Eva
Cassidy did go to art school, she never had any formal
In Britain Eva's music can
be heard regularly on many radio stations, but specially
Radio 2 during the 'Wake up to Wogan' show.
The 'Toggs' (Terry's old
geezers and gals' as he likes to call them), have had
the pleasure of listening to her wonderful voice many
times. Terry called her once 'the late but mighty Eva
Cassidy'. Chances are, that you have heard this remarkable
artist yourself, even if you did not catch the name
at the time.
When you read and hear about
Eva Cassidy the person, the artist, read her story,
you soon begin to understand why so many people think
she was very special indeed. Not only as an artist,
but also as a person. This from an article by Joel E.
" Eva was a complex
person, painfully shy, vulnerable to criticism and subject
to seasonal depressions, yet opinionated and unyielding
in her personal values and artistic principles. She
loved solitude, bicycling, movies and Cheetos, hated
high school, dresses, aggressive drivers and the exploitation
of women in advertising and television. She was obsessive
about her art projects, painting, drawing, sculpting,
designing jewellery, decorating furniture and clock
faces. Extremely self-conscious, she had little interest
in pursuing a professional career in art or music, preferring
to surround herself with supportive friends who served
as her advocates. She had few possessions and modest
goals, sometimes she spoke of wanting to live in a cottage
by the ocean, and no sense of money. She didn't have
a checking account until she was 30, and worried that
material success would threaten her identity.
Battling the melanoma that took her life at 33, she
told her mother "All I want to do when I get well
is sing and travel around with my music"
The major record companies
had difficulty trying to categorize Eva's style. She
refused to be pushed in a single direction, preferring
instead to sing the songs she loved, whether they were
Jazz or Spiritual, Blues, Country or Pop. It was always
a sadness to her that people did not understand that
she just wanted to sing nice songs, make good music.
Bruce Lundvall president of Jazz and classics for Capitol
Records considered signing Eva Cassidy and it was he
who teamed her with the band Pieces of a Dream for a
while. But for Eva this was musically unsatisfying and
the main record companies did not pursue her record
career after that.
It does not matter what your
musical taste is. It does not matter if you buy just
one or many CDs each year. You will find that any Eva
Cassidy CD will become a treasured possession. For it
is the same story, the World over, every time anyone
hears Eva Cassidy's voice for the first time. You stop
what you are doing and you listen. Then you rush out
and buy the other CDs.
And you will
be so glad you did. Enjoy, and as Eva would say: