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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 her, but her recorded submissions always covered too much ground -- folk, jazz, blues, gospel, R&B, pop/rock -- for the marketing department's 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, but they continued 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 and 2015’s expanded and remastered edition of Nightbird, a collection of all 31 songs that Cassidy performed at the Blues Alley in 1996. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Somewhere

1. Coat Of Many Colors

2. My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose

3. Ain't Doin' Too Bad

4. Chain Of Fools

5. Won't Be Long

6. Walkin' After Midnight

7. Early One Morning

8. A Bold Young Farmer

9. If I Give My Heart

10. Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain

11. Summertime (Album Version)

12. Somewhere (Album Version)

x

Track List: Wonderful World

1. What A Wonderful World

2. Kathy's Song

3. Say Goodbye

4. Anniversary Song

5. How Can I Keep From Singing? (Live)

6. You Take My Breath Away

7. Drowning In The Sea Of Love

8. Penny To My Name

9. You've Changed

10. It Doesn't Matter Anymore

11. Waly Waly

x

Track List: American Tune

1. Drowning In The Sea Of Love

2. True Colours

3. The Water Is Wide

4. Hallelujah, I Love Him So

5. God Bless The Child

6. Dark Eyed Molly

7. American Tune

8. It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)

9. Yesterday

10. You Take My Breath Away

x

Track List: Imagine

1. It Doesn't Matter Anymore

2. Fever

3. Who Knows Where The Time Goes

4. You've Changed

5. Imagine

6. Still Not Ready

7. Early Morning Rain

8. Tennesssee Waltz

9. I Can Only Be Me

10. Danny Boy

x

Track List: Songbird

1. Fields Of Gold

2. Wade In The Water

3. Autumn Leaves (Live)

4. Wayfaring Stranger

5. Songbird

6. Time Is A Healer

7. I Know You By Heart

8. People Get Ready (Live)

9. Oh, Had I A Golden Thread

10. Over The Rainbow

x

Track List: Live At Blues Alley

1. Cheek To Cheek (Live 1996)

2. Stormy Monday (Live 1996)

3. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Live 1996)

4. Fine And Mellow (Live 1996)

5. People Get Ready (Live 1996)

6. Blue Skies (Live 1996)

7. Tall Trees In Georgia (Live 1996)

8. Fields Of Gold (Live 1996)

9. Autumn Leaves (Live 1996)

10. Honeysuckle Rose (Live 1996)

11. Take Me To The River (Live 1996)

12. What A Wonderful World (Live 1996)

13. Oh, Had I A Golden Thread (Live 1996)

Comments

Report as inappropriate
bwellsandt
Now she is singing up in Heaven to God the Father.
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bwellsandt
I love her amazing voice very much!!!!!
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A beautiful and immensely talented singer... her fate makes it hard for me to listen to her on such frequent rotation...
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There is an emptiness in this world that can be filled only by Eva. Thank God she lives on in her music.
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kwreiss
Seldom in our lifetimes does pure genius of art emerge. Eva flashed there like a firefly on a gentle June evening. We are blesses indeed.
Report as inappropriate
I sent my best friend in WA all of Eva's albums one year for her birthday. I hope she enjoyed them as much as I did. She is now in Heaven with Eva. RIP Pam. 11-5-49 - 3-23-16
Report as inappropriate
I love her voice. Seems like they just play the one (beautiful) song, though...
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bpercy1
:-(
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She touches my soul. I have to stop and listen when I hear her music
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beautiful
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She is still like breath of fresh air!
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bg123085
Incredible voice...incr e d i b l e music. Wish I found her sooner
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So very very special.
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You break my heart everytime I hear you sing.....
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Why you left we'll never understand today
-- the love will remain for tomorrow and today
Love Eva
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Tear to the eye, tear to the eye. Heaven to hold...
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Perfection.. . S e n d s chills up my spine
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nymikie
You always make me cry. Thank you. Love.
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oziyanki
Your voice will live forever.
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She never get OLD!
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Totally agree with bklecs... such a poignant voice.
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bklecs
Her song came on while driving. I was impressed with her range and feeling of being soulful without trying. The song I heard told me she was a I feel it singer. When she gets a song she possesses it. I'm sorry we can't see you in concert.. I bet her voice reflects who she is/was.
Report as inappropriate
Her story always makes me sad...such a powerhouse of a woman, lost too soon.
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I cannot believe any record company didn't jump to pick her up. I swear she has the sweetest and strongest voice I think I've ever heard. She can sing a love song so well.....res t well Eva....God, we sure did miss out on your brilliance.
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Beautiful, angelic voice....... . . .
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lauralvschi
Eva's voice was heaven sent, and there will never be another as pure.
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kwreiss
Noone will ever replace Eva.
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bernadette66 4
Eva went far too soon, but she left the legacy of her beautiful voice. What a talent. I have every one of her CDs and no matter how often I listen to them, I still get goose bumps every time I hear her voice. Eva, you are sadly missed, but those of us who have heard you will not forget you.
Report as inappropriate
Too sad she wasn't noticed and capitalized on until she died!
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Just as good as Paul Simons version!
She was amazing!!!!! ! !
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Eva, your music is true beauty! Even though you were gone too soon, you have not been forgotten.
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Amazing voice! So glad I heard her on Pandora.
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ktracy1999
The best rendition of "Over the Rainbow." Ever. Gone too soon.
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gypsyme3
❤️
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straight to the heart...tend e r , beautiful... t i m e l e s s . . . .
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Beautiful heartbreakin g rendition of "Over The Rainbow", even more heartbreakin g considering her untimely death
Report as inappropriate
I thought her version of Fields of Gold was even better than Sting. I thought it was filled with emotion and life. I guess we all have our opinions, but don't be cruel. The lady is gone.
Report as inappropriate
I'm not familiar with her. Her life story can make you cry, but I don't particularly care for her cover of Fields of Gold; it's well sung, but not well felt. The instrumental break is particularly feeble; I'm not sure what the producer was aiming for. I'll reserve judgment till Pandora plays something else by her.
Report as inappropriate
I hope she's walking in Fields of Gold right now. Her story is so heartwrenchi n g . . . . j u s t love her voice.
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sadness joy beauty, doesn't get much better
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Beautiful voice and instrumentat i o n
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thefunkster1
Search YouTube for "Eva Cassidy story- by ABC" for a touching tribute. That is how I found out about her quite by chance.
Report as inappropriate
yeah, she was good, reminds me a little of Ellen Macklewain if anybody remembers her.
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Wonderful, poignant voice.
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I love her beautiful voice, so sad she died so young. I would not have found her without Pandora.
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tmpetre
Such a wonderful, beautiful voice!
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frankwiener
I don't think that I would have discovered Eva Cassidy without Pandora. Thank you. Somewhere over the rainbow, she knows that we love her. Gone too soon.
Report as inappropriate
It makes me so sad that's she not here anymore. She had an angelic voice. I know she's singing with the angels.
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jp.ba.mathew s 3
So sad a story but her beautiful voice lives on.
Report as inappropriate
In heaven singing with her heavenly voice!!!! Gone way to soon!!!!
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