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Eva Cassidy

The heart-tugging story of Eva Cassidy reads almost like the plot of a "Movie of the Week" tearjerker. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, the painfully shy Cassidy earned a local reputation as a masterful interpreter of standards from virtually any genre, blessed with technical agility and a searching passion that cut straight to the emotional core of her material. Despite the evocative instrument that was Cassidy's voice, record companies shied away from her, unsure of how to market her eclectic repertoire; for her part, Cassidy adamantly refused to allow herself to be pigeonholed, prizing the music above any potential fame. In 1996, just when she had begun to record more frequently on a small, local basis, Cassidy was diagnosed with cancer, which had already spread throughout her body and rapidly claimed her life. But her story didn't end there; her music was posthumously championed by a BBC disc jockey, and amazingly, the anthology Songbird became a number one million-selling smash in England.

Cassidy was born February 2, 1963, in Oxon Hill, Maryland, and grew up (from age nine on) in Bowie, Maryland. She loved music from an early age, particularly folk and jazz (as a girl, her favorite singer was Buffy Sainte-Marie), and learned guitar from her father Hugh. At one point, Hugh put together a family folk act featuring himself on bass, Eva on guitar and vocals, and her brother Danny on fiddle; Eva and Danny also played country music at a local amusement park, but Eva's sensitivity eventually made performances too difficult on her. Something of a loner during her teens, Cassidy sang with a pop/rock band called Stonehenge while in high school. After graduating, she studied art for a short time, but soon grew dissatisfied with what she was being taught, and dropped out to work at a plant nursery. She sang occasional backing vocals for friends' rock bands around Bowie and Annapolis, but was never comfortable trying to overpower the amplification. In 1986, longtime friend Dave Lourim persuaded Cassidy to lay down some vocals at a recording session for his soft pop/rock group Method Actor. (The results were eventually reissued in 2002.) At the studio, Cassidy met D.C.-area producer Chris Biondo, who was immediately struck by her voice and agreed to help her put together a demo tape she hoped would get her more backup-singing work.

Cassidy became a regular presence at Biondo's studio, where he recorded a wide variety of music; incongruously enough, Cassidy performed backing vocals on D.C. go-go funksters E.U.'s Livin' Large album (singing all of her own harmony parts to give the illusion of a choir) and, later, on gangsta rapper E-40's "I Wanna Thank You." At Biondo's urging, Cassidy formed a backing band to play local clubs, where her singing began to win a following in spite of her discomfort. In 1991, Biondo played Cassidy's demos for Chuck Brown, the originator of D.C.'s swinging go-go funk sound (which never really broke out to a national audience). Brown had been wanting to record an album of jazz and blues standards, and found his ideal duet partner in the sophisticated yet soulful Cassidy. Their collaborative album, The Other Side, was released in late 1992, and in 1993, the two began performing around the D.C. area together; helped by Brown's outgoing showmanship, Cassidy finally began to lose some of the insecurity and intense fear that usually kept her away from live performance. Several record labels showed interest in signing Cassidy, but her recorded submissions always covered too much ground -- folk, jazz, blues, gospel, R&B, pop/rock -- for the marketing departments' taste (or limited imaginations), and the labels always wound up passing.

In September 1993, Cassidy had a malignant mole removed from below her neck, and neglected her subsequent checkup appointments. Shortly thereafter, she broke up with Biondo, who'd been her boyfriend for several years; however, they did continue their professional relationship. In early 1994, the Blue Note label showed some interest in teaming Cassidy with a jazz-pop outfit from Philadelphia called Pieces of a Dream; they recorded the single "Goodbye Manhattan" together, and Cassidy toured with them that summer, but didn't really care for their style. She returned to D.C. and began playing more gigs on her own, though she still made the occasional appearance with Brown; at the end of the year, she won a local music award for traditional jazz vocals.

Cassidy remained unable to secure a record deal, and Biondo and her frustrated manager decided to put out an album themselves. In January 1996, Cassidy played two gigs at the D.C. club Blues Alley; despite her dissatisfaction with the quality of her performance, the album Live at Blues Alley was compiled from the recordings and released that year to much acclaim in the D.C. area. Sadly, it would be the only solo album to appear during Cassidy's lifetime. She moved to Annapolis and took a job painting murals at elementary schools; during the summer, she began experiencing problems with her hip, which she assumed was related to her frequent use of stepladders at work. However, X-rays revealed that her hip was broken, and further tests showed that the melanoma from several years before had spread to her lungs and bones. Cassidy started chemotherapy, but it was simply too late. A benefit show in her honor was staged in September, and Cassidy found the strength to give her last performance there, singing "What a Wonderful World." She died on November 2, 1996. Cassidy virtually swept that year's Washington Area Music Awards, and the album she'd been working on with Biondo prior to her death, Eva by Heart, was released by Liaison in 1997.

D.C.-based Celtic folk singer Grace Griffith finally found some interest in releasing Cassidy's music at the label she recorded for, Blix Street. 1998's Songbird was a compilation culled from Cassidy's three previous releases, and when BBC Radio 2 disc jockey Terry Wogan started playing the version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Songbird started to sell in the U.K. The British TV show Top of the Pops aired a home-video clip of Cassidy performing the song, quite intensely, at the Blues Alley, and were deluged with requests for further broadcasts. Thanks to all the exposure, Songbird steadily grew into a major hit, climbing all the way to the top of the British album charts and selling over a million copies. In 2000, Blix Street followed Songbird with Time After Time, a set of 12 previously unreleased tracks (eight studio, four live) that proved an important addition to Cassidy's slim recorded legacy. The same year saw the appearance of No Boundaries, an unrepresentative set of adult contemporary pop released by the Renata label over strenuous objections from Cassidy's family. Subsequent collections like Wonderful World (2004) and Simply Eva (2011) included more studio demos and live recordings, further cementing Cassidy's posthumous reputation, along with 2012's The Best of Eva Cassidy. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

judith_baker
I love Eva Cassidy's voice. Her rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow is fabulous. For whatever reason I become very melancholy listening to her music, beautiful as it is. I think it is so sad that her life was too short. She was a dynamic young woman who enjoyed every blessing but the gift of time.
here is a link to the Eva Cassidy Story on YouTube https://www. y o u t u b e . c o m / w a t c h ? v = b X U 2 1 9 b 3 Z d w & f e a t u r e = y o u t u . b e
https://www. y o u t u b e . c o m / w a t c h ? v = b X U 2 1 9 b 3 Z d w & f e a t u r e = y o u t u . b e
I shed tears of joy knowing that she has Karma in the best sense of the word.
Yep... it's me again commenting on Beautiful Eva Cassidy!! So smooth so pure so sad!! She is an angel In Heaven-- looking down on all of us!!
This is quite a treat+) getting Eva 4 times in 9 songs is rare, Thanks Pandora!
Now that's a cool version- different than most of her songs! I love Eva, I always feel very nostalgic listening to her! & We FANS miss her beautiful voice!
Such an amazing songstress.
Amazing voice and beautiful woman.
What a beautiful woman she was.
kenbunch
Rare is it that a voice so clear and warm graces this world. She had a quality that came from a heart that felt every note and word in the deepest sense and that transcends multi-genera t i o n a l music listeners. We lost a Great One.
sounds like christine Mc Vie
Eva has been my favorite singer for years! I even named my first daughter Eva seven years ago! Her voice "Takes My Breath Away".
telumsden
so sad we don't have music videos of her...I'm sure that dimension would be special...
jrshelby3
I was listening to Sophie Barker's station and when one of Eva's songs were played I had a need to dash over to the screen to find the name of this splendid vocalist. I am (without a doubt) blown away by the talent of this artist. Yes, I read the story and watched the Nightline episode and was saddened terribly. Then I thought that, no, I should list this experience as one of those moments to be grateful for rather than the melancholy mood I was having. I am lucky to have found her.
Eva's voice has that transcendent quality of deepest emotion and soul shared through her vocals in any style she choose to render. She could belt it out like the best gospel or blues divas. Yet she could do folk and acoustic ballads better (In my opinion) then artists that we long have admired such as Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Carole King, etc. I only say Better (I love all these great female singer songwriter vocalists for sure !) because there is that quality in her voice that is divine !
Indeed (agreeing w/Kevin Grail), we are lucky she recorded!! Beautiful voice and no doubt beautiful soul!
We are all so lucky she recorded. I love her.
Fifty shades of Grey, that's how I got to know about this wonderful artist.
mcollins93
Danny Boy - how pofetic
It was a lucky day when I walked into a bookstore in Saugatuck, MI and heard this beautiful singer emanating from a CD player. I immediately fell in love, and from there collected a good portion of Eva's CDs. Such a shame that we lose the really good ones way too young. R.I.P. Eva.
bwright268
The story behind the record labels turning their backs on Eva Cassidy is a perfect example of the still existent narrow-minde d record labels & their hired marketing firms. Her global success, like many other artists are partly because listeners/di s c jockeys/and the general public wanted to share their love of music & an artist. As opposed to the record labels & their marketing firms bottom lines. When you see the "similar artists" those artists first found a niche without the labels.
I never tire of her voice.
Pandora lists similar artists...th e r e ARE NONE! Love her! I didn't discover Eva until after her death, but I miss her nevertheless . . .
firstnline0
Just think of all the music she would have made for us had she lived a full life. I ache for that. Her voice is so soothing.
the organ pipes in heaven play with her songs
duchess2b
Eva is not just an incredible discovery, her short life, her voice, her musical choices are an everlasting gift. We who have ears to listen are truly blessed. Thank you Eva Cassidy.
I tear up every time...
markscott878
One of the best voices I have ever heard!
I never heard of her until tonight. Such a beautiful voice. So sad to hear that she's not with us anymore.
My sister sent me a cd, Songbird, and told me a little of her tragic story, aut it was the music on the disc that enchanted me. Love her work.
I love eva cassidy.How can you not?
No Ko Cho: beautifully expressed. Her voice is simply extraordinar y , non pareil... and in retrospect, deeply imbued with the transitory nature of our lives.
Absolutely amazing voice, god blessed her and she in turn blessed everyone that hears her music, thank you god and eva.
This lady has an amazing voice! The first time I had ever heard of her was the song" over the rainbow" she left behind her wonderful music to cherish. God bless
sgflikchik
I hadn't heard her in a while, and put a mix on someone had given me while driving the other day. Half an hour later, I was still listening to Tennessee Waltz.....ov e r and over and over. Sublime.
This is why Pandora is so great. I had never heard of her. We are from the same town and I may have passed her in the hallways for all I know. I almost broke out in tears when I read her bio. So sad.
Love all the songs of hers that I've heard. Need to hear more!
my favorite female vocalist since joni mitchell
Findng Eva and her rendition of Somewhere over the Rainbow...he l p e d me through my battle with cancer. During Chemo I would listen to all her songs...had her on my headset when I walked. Her soothing sound, comforted me greatly...Th a n k you Eva and I will see you somewhere over the rainbow someday.
i miss her shows
Simply the best at what she did. She never let herself be put into categories and stayed true to her self and her amazing talent. Washington DC area has not generated a better artist.
jstevens7107
shaskeen- if what you say about knowing her is true, you were blessed more than anyone I can even imagine. She was the best there ever was.

Eva and I were biking and adventure partners, and she was my best friend. I wish someone would delete that painfully shy quote that keeps being perpetuated. She was funny, spunky, and had a powerful spirit.
Bassbone, there is Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin and Eva Cassidy - then there is everyone else.
Bassbone - There's Eva Cassidy, Aretha Franklin and Eva Cassidy. Then, there is everyone else.
There's Eva Cassidy and then every other female vocalist.
holt56
I love the tender, heartfelt interpretati o n s of classic songs that Eva did. I hope to meet her in heaven to thank her.
Thank The Lord for the amazing work Eva left us. Just beautiful sessions, "Live at Blues Alley" is simply brilliant. The interpretati o n s are just outstanding.
Awesome, God Bless Pandora!!!
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