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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?

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)

2. Stormy Monday (Live)

3. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Live)

4. Fine And Mellow (Live)

5. People Get Ready (Live)

6. Blue Skies (Live)

7. Tall Trees In Georgia (Live)

8. Fields Of Gold (Live)

9. Autumn Leaves (Live)

10. Honeysuckle Rose (Live)

11. Take Me To The River (Live)

12. What A Wonderful World (Live)

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

Comments

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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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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.
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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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Fields of Gold has never been sang as beautiful.
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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.
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I've been listening to Eva since 8 years. I am so struck by her voice. It's so sad we lost her so soon. It seems we lose real talent to early these days.
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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.
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In heaven singing with her heavenly voice!!!! Gone way to soon!!!!
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RIP Eva! I love you.....and hope to see you in Heaven! Sally
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rgspops
GONE TO SOON!!!
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Her music calms my soul, love to listen to her!!
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Like Kate Wolf, I discovered Eva Cassidy's music too late. I hope they are singing in God's choir.
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The episode of Nightline (with Ted Koppel) that tole her story was so moving, that the public call to hear it again prompted only the second repeat in Nightlines thirty year history. Koppel himself introduced the repeat episode with essentially those words.
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Her music, her voice simply takes me to another place. I've introduced her to so many who feel the same way. We all never tire of listening to her. She is, simply, my favorite voice.
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This is five minutes of musical perfection.
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rukhmani
Simply beautiful!
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Where is the You Absolutely Love This artist button?
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Simply breath taking and beautiful
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rgspops
yet another Lass gone to young.
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dwirth63
Beautiful woman, tragic story. Rest in peace dear girl.
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Her story so sad, her voice so beautiful. RIP.
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A series of corrections are in order. Instead of AOR, substitute A&R. Blue Note wanted Eva Cassidy to Do Jazz, but she didn't want to just do one kind of music, nor not be allowed to do her own songs. However, The Question remains on what could have been.;)
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Submitted for your cogitation: Both Eva Cassidy and NoraH Jones are/were Blue Note artists. Blue Note's AOR bit the big one when they paired Eva with, of all things, a Jazz band! (DON'T BUY THE CD, it's awful! Eva's the bright spot;) Eva Cassidy went the Indie route, and became a posthumous musical star. I suspect that Blue Note learned a lesson or two by the time Norah Jones arrived, and adopted aa AOR hands off approach with legendary results. What might have been had Blue Note done the same?
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I was doing a Google! search for Somewhere Over The Rainbow when a link to Eva Cassidy's page caught my eye. Clicking the lead took me on a quest for recordings by this known-only-i n - W a s h i n g o n D. C.-during-he r - l i f e t i m e . One big plus is/was her version of John Lennon's Imagine that doesn't sound whiny, but self assured.;)
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dave5962
The first time I listened to a cut on an Eva Cassidy album I burst into tears. That voice, that talent, that shy and yet deeply emotional and beautiful person just got into me, knowing as I did the tragedy of her early departure from this life. Interestingl y , the first time I recommended her to a friend, without telling her anything about Eva, just recommending the music (without mentioning my tearful introduction ) my friend reported bursting into tears on first listening to the album.
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asymetry,,bo r d e r , c o l o r , d i a m e t e r look for melanoma
lost a beautiful soul

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Beautiful Singing God Bless .
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Its simple, eloquent, moving, bridge building and dangerously heart felt. You have to be in-touch with your frailties and gods humanity. I missed your life and times but am grateful to your recorded legacy. Thanks Eva for taking a chance. Hope to meet you in the next place. Peace
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walk on in song
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ginghess1
When people pass on and come to heaven...... . . . . . Your voice will be the first thing they hear!! God Bless you Eva!!!
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firstnline0
When I think of the music she could have made by now, I want to cry. Her voice is one of the reasons why I love Pandora.
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Sorry I discovered her music after her death. One of the best ever!!! Went to DC to the club she played. Very emotional-ta k e n from us way to soon- like Kate Wolf.
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:,,)
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dfriel960
i was born in '64 & had my 1st of 6 in 85. my oldest exposed me to Adele some years ago...but 2day for the 1st time, I've had exposure to Eva (wild that she was 6 mo older than me & it took 50 years 4 me to be Graced by Her Soul...i'm thankful always for past, present, and future enlightenmen t through the Heart and Soul of Those guided by their Gift.
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her rainbow is full spectum
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The songstress that was able to make any song sound beautiful~~~ ~
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Gorgeous~
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Eva, you make a grown man cry. Your voice is penetrating, rest in peace.
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william.keet o n
Such a truly beautiful song.
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To Eva, thanks so much for sharing your gift. God bless you.
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rgspops
You stir my Irish blood.
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kwreiss
Over the Rainbow is infinitely more expressive and lovely than its famous first.
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This SONG HAS MADE IT TO NUMBER ONE IN BRITONS MUSIC CHARTS! This week! I HAVE ALWAYS LOVE YOU!
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