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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

One of the greatest things about EVA is her ability to take a song we thought was already great and make it even BETTER.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow is my favorite. ladycd
jerryo1991
Her voice stopped me in my tracks. My jaw literally dropped while listening to her for the first time. Couldn't believe I had never heard her sing before.
We still miss you Eva.
delete

Somewhere Over the Rainbow. ... singing to God. forever.
woodsnwater1
Simply beautiful!
I don't like Eva Cassidy. I LOVE her
It seems as if most of our best are ripped by tragedy from our presence
Thank you pandora for preserving them
shireseburns
I let my baby listen to this song who is still in my belly. We luv it.
boogiespeed
I hope Eva is indeed,.. walking in 'Fields of Gold' now...

Take care beautiful heart.

info57399
What a voice, what a gift!
Was introduced to Eva Cassidy's music by an old friend (from Peace Corps Tunisia days) who knew her family. Fine voice, wonderful interpretati o n of all songs. Feel a sense of loss that she is not with us anymore...
i would love to be her backup singer
beautiful... and poignant.
dawn1916
The performers seen at Blues Alley is amazing. Growing up around DC was the best. RIP
Heart felt & and with love, unforgettabl e - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I love this song, my favourite ever; so heartfelt. I always played it for people & asked -donUt you feel the pain of losing someone? My Mother just died & Now my Fav song is hard to listen to without sobbing



Your words gently touch my soul
donvic4
As a general rule, I do not like artists who do covers but Eva is an exception, her versions are better!
so tragic - i hope she is somewhere close - knowing how much people love her
What an angelic voice that will live on and on.
So beautiful what a blessing to have her songs recorded.
a real legend that left us too soon
wkittils
my heart still breaks each time I listen to her
I could lister to her all day. Great voice.
Love the voice.....go n e too soon!
What an exquisite voice. Taken far too soon.
If I haven't commented before, shame on me. Fabulous song, great performance and perfect guitar accompanimen t .
SUCH A SWEET SOUL!

MARK
Her voice is hands down THE best voice I have ever heard.
My three favorite female singers were Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks and Linda Ronstat..... . . . a n d then there were four!!
Love this lady and her music. Wish I could let her know.
Danny Boy ; prophetic
greatest singer of this century
Best non classical voice EVER. Leaves all other for dead, even the classics like Ella Fitzgerald. She was and is surely an angel. So sad she didn't find recognition in her home country. An Australian discovered her and remastered all the tapes. The Americans were confused about what genre to fit her into. Beauty isn't a genre.
THE VOICE OF AN ANGEL!
great talent, sad story, taken way too soon
evolvedstard u s t
Eva's music has been a staple of mine since '96. She was a gift to us all. I put her alongside Linda Ronstadt... A pair of angelic voices. Check out Linda's 'Round Midnight collection. Perfection.
bknelson60
Her voice is like angels and now she's singing along with them to the songs she wrote :')
songbird sing in heaven
Great talent, sadly taken from us way too soon.
holt56
I guess heaven is getting to enjoy this angel's voice now.
Along with Barbra Streisand and Aretha Franklin, Eva Cassidy is the best singer I ever heard.
The first time I ever kissed my wonderful husband 'over the rainbow was playing' I absolutely love Eva Cassidy...on e of the best artists to come out of USA and most have never heard of her.
I love her also and when I first heard her version of somewhere over the rainbow--I cired so hard since that is where she already was ---somewhere over the rainbow!
wish I had seen her in person...... .
I have been in love with Eva's music since 2001. What a wonderful soulful voice and personality. Oh if I could just hear one song sung by her live. Wow! I suppose I will have to wait until I get to Heaven, where I am sure she is performing there! She is LOVED by Millions!!!
As I work with music in the background and check who is singing so often it is Eva. Sigh so sad to find that she has passed. What a beautiful voice and talent. I hope her spirit know I love her.
Beautiful, pure, angelic is what comes to mind when I hear her beautiful voice. A tragedy the world lost such a "star". One can only imagine what other contribution s she would have given us......
She must be an Angel from Montgomery.
How pure she is.
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