Eva Marie Cassidy (February
2, 1963 – November 2, 1996) was an America vocalist known for her interpretations of jazz, blues, folk, gospel,
country and pop classics.
In 1992 she released her
first album, The
, a set of duets with go-go
musician Chuck Brown
, followed by a live
solo album, Live at Blues
in 1996. Although she had been honored by the Washington Area Music
Association, she was virtually unknown outside her native
DC when she died of melanoma
Four years later, Cassidy's music was brought to the attention of
British audiences when her version of "Over the Rainbow
" was played by Terry Wogan
on BBC Radio
. Following the overwhelming response, a camcorder recording
of "Over the Rainbow", taken at the Blues
, was shown on BBC Two
Top of the Pops 2
Shortly afterwards, the compilation album Songbird
climbed to the
top of the UK Albums Charts
three years after its initial release. The chart success in the
United Kingdom led to increased recognition worldwide; as of 2008
recordings, including three UK #1s, have sold around eight million
copies. Her music has also charted top 10 positions in
Australia, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland.
February 2, 1963, at the Washington Hospital Center, Cassidy grew up in Bowie, Maryland, a suburb of
She was the third of four children born to
Hugh and Barbara Cassidy. Her father, a retired teacher, sculptor,
musician and former army medic, is of Scottish and Irish descent,
while her German-born mother was a horticulturist
. From an early age, Cassidy
displayed interest in art and music. When she was nine, her father
taught her to play the guitar and she began to play and sing at
At age 11, Cassidy began singing and playing guitar in a Washington
area band called Easy Street. This band performed in a variety of
styles at weddings, corporate parties and pubs. Due to her shyness,
she struggled with performing in front of strangers. While a student at
School, she sang with a local band called
Stonehenge. During the summer of 1983, Cassidy sang and
played guitar six days a week at the theme park Wild
Her younger brother Dan, a fiddler
, was also a member of this working band. She
enrolled in art classes at a community college but dropped out
after finding them unhelpful.
Throughout the 1980s, Cassidy worked with several other bands,
including the techno-pop band Characters Without Names. During this
period, Cassidy also worked as a propagator at a plant nursery and
as a furniture painter. In her free time, she explored other
artistic expressions including painting, sculpting and jewelry
design. Despite holding a belief in God, Cassidy was not part of
any organized religion.
In 1986, Cassidy was asked by Stonehenge guitarist and high school
friend, David Lourim, to lend her voice to his music project,
. This brought her to Black
Pond Studios, where she met bassist and recording engineer Chris
Biondo. Biondo helped her find work as a session singer
and later introduced her to
Al Dale, who would become her manager. She sang back-ups for
various acts, from go-go rhythm and blues
band Experience Unlimited
to rapper E-40
. Biondo and Cassidy,
who were in a romantic relationship for a time, formed the
five-piece "Eva Cassidy Band" with Lenny Williams, Keith Grimes and
Raice McLeod in 1990. They began to perform frequently in the
In 1992, Biondo played a tape of Cassidy's voice for Chuck Brown
, the "Godfather of go-go". It
resulted in the duet album The Other Side
featuring performances of classic songs such as "Fever
", "God Bless the
" and what would later become Cassidy's signature song
"Over the Rainbow
". The album was released
and distributed in 1992 by Liaison Records, the label that also
released Brown's Go-go albums. Brown originally intended to record
a single duet with Cassidy for his next solo album, but this was
postponed due to ongoing negotiations between Dale and other labels
for a solo deal. Cassidy's unwillingness to narrow her stylistic
focus to one genre hindered her chances of securing a deal. After
talks broke down, the two decided to record their own duet album.
As a duo, they performed at the Columbia Arts Festival and opened
for acts like Al Green
and The Neville Brothers
In 1993, Cassidy was honored by the Washington Area Music
Association with a Wammie
for the Vocalist Jazz/Traditional
next year she was invited to perform at the event and chose to sing
"Over the Rainbow". A Washington
review of the event called her performance "a
show-stopper". She took home two Wammies that night, again for
and also for Roots
. For a brief period that year,
Cassidy signed a deal with Blue Note
to pair up with pop-jazz band Pieces of a Dream
to release an
album and tour the country. She sang two tracks in a mainly
instrumental album. It was a musically unsatisfying experience for
After having a potential contract with Apollo Records
collapse when the label went
bankrupt, Biondo and Dale decided that she should release her own
live album. In January 1996, the material for Live at Blues Alley
over a two-day period at Blues Alley
Washington, D.C. Due to a technical glitch on the first night of
recording, only the second night recording was usable. Unhappy with
the way she sounded due to a cold, she was reluctant to release the
album. She eventually relented, on the condition that the studio
track "Oh, Had I a Golden Thread", Cassidy's favorite song, would
be included in the release, and that they start working on a
follow-up studio album. Her apprehension appeared unfounded as
local reviewers and the public responded positively. In one of the
first published news articles on Eva Cassidy, The Washington Post
"she could sing anything — folk, blues, pop, jazz, R&B,
gospel — and make it sound like it was the only music that
mattered." The subsequent studio album she worked on was released
as Eva by Heart
in 1997. In the liner notes of Eva by Heart
Joel E. Siegel
described Cassidy as "one of the
greatest voices of her generation."
In 1993, Cassidy had a malignant mole removed from her back. Three
years later, during a promotional event for the Live at Blues
album in July 1996, Cassidy noticed an ache in her hips,
which she attributed to stiffness from painting murals
while perched atop a stepladder. The pain
persisted and a few weeks later, X-rays
revealed that the melanoma
had spread to
her lungs and bones. Her doctors estimated she had three to five
months to live. Cassidy opted for aggressive treatment, but her
health deteriorated rapidly. In her final public performance in
September 1996, at the Bayou
, she closed
the set with "What a Wonderful
" in front of an audience of friends, fans and family.
subsequently admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital.
died at her family home in Bowie, November 2,
1996, at the age of 33.
She was posthumously inducted into
the Hall of Fame of the Washington Area Music Association. In
accordance with her wishes, Cassidy’s body was cremated.
were scattered on the lake shores of St. Mary's River Watershed
Park, a nature reserve near California, Maryland.
After Cassidy's death, local folk singer Grace Griffith
introduced the Blues Alley
recording to Bill Straw from her label, Blix Street Records. Straw
approached the Cassidy family to put together a new album. In 1998,
a compilation of tracks from Cassidy's three released recordings
was assembled into the CD Songbird
. This CD lingered
in relative obscurity for two years until being given airplay by
on his wide-reaching BBC
Radio 2 show Wake Up to
, following recommendation by his producer Paul Walters
. The album sold more than
100,000 copies in the following months. The New York Times
spoke of her
"silken soprano voice with a wide and seemingly effortless range,
unerring pitch and a gift for phrasing that at times was
Before Christmas of 2000, Top Of The Pops
aired a video of Cassidy performing "Over the Rainbow
", which resulted in
climbing steadily up the UK charts over the next
few weeks. Just as ITV
's Tonight with Trevor
aired a feature on Cassidy, the album topped the
chart. Shot at Blues Alley by a friend with a camcorder the same
night the album was recorded, the black-and-white video became the
most requested video ever shown on Top Of The Pops 2. "There's an
undeniable emotional appeal in hearing an artist who you know died
in obscurity singing a song about hope and a mystical world beyond
everyday life", wrote The
The black-and-white camcorder
recording of "Over the Rainbow" as shown on Top of the
Jazz critic Ted Gioia
writes, "you might
be tempted to write off the 'Cassidy sensation' [...] as a response
to the sad story of the singer's abbreviated life rather than as a
measure of her artistry. But don't be mistaken, Cassidy was a huge
talent, whose obscurity during her lifetime was almost as much a
tragedy as her early death." Songbird
has since achieved
significant chart success throughout Europe and six times platinum
in the UK. Although still relatively unknown in the
United States at that time, the album would eventually be certified gold
In May 2001, ABC
the United States broadcast a well-received short documentary about
Cassidy. Over the weekend, all five of Cassidy's albums occupied
's best sellers list top spots.
The Nightline episode has since been rebroadcast three times due to
popular demand. Producer Leroy Sievers
has said that it is "probably the most popular Nightline ever". In
December, a nine-minute segment on NPR resulted in a similar sales
surge, with five of the top seven spots going to Cassidy. A
rebroadcast of the Tonight with Trevor McDonald
Cassidy in Britain also bumped up sales.
, several other CDs with original material
have been released: Time After Time
(2002) and American
(2003). 2008 saw the release of another new album
Unlike previous albums, which consisted solely of cover songs, this
release contains two original songs co-written by Cassidy.
Together with word of mouth
internet fansites, the role of online
has played a big part in Cassidy's success. This point
was further affirmed when in 2005, Amazon.com
released a list of its top 25
best-selling musicians, which placed Cassidy in 5th position,
behind The Beatles
, Norah Jones
and Diana Krall
, and far ahead of Elvis Presley
and several other well-known
In 2004, during the gala opening of the Bowie Center for the
Performing Arts, the Bowie Regional Arts Vision Association, Inc.
(BRAVA) dedicated the Star's Dressing Room to Eva. Following a
moving tribute to Eva, Chuck Brown took to the stage and performed
his duet "with" Eva as her photos and video appeared in the
The re-released Method Actor album
cover, showing Cassidy's prominent name placement, which resulted
in the lawsuit.
The original LP cover contained the same artwork, which was
done by Cassidy
A collection of previously unreleased studio recordings from 1987
to 1991, was released in 2000 as No Boundaries
release was not endorsed by the Cassidy family and was released
under a different label. An allmusic
of the album stated that even "a gifted vocalist like Eva Cassidy
can only do so much with bad material". In 2002, the self titled
1988 album by the band Method Actor
which Cassidy sang for, was re-released by the band's guitarist and
producer David Lourim. Cassidy's name was featured prominently on
the cover, which led to the Cassidy family and Blix Street Records
filing a lawsuit against Lourim, claiming that Cassidy's name was
used in a misleading fashion. Eventually the cover was changed to
look like the original LP album
In popular media
In 2001, a book titled Songbird: Eva Cassidy: Her Story By
Those Who Knew Her
, on the life and work of Cassidy based on
interviews with close family and associates was released in the UK.
The hardcover edition has since sold in excess of
100,000 copies. A U.S. edition published by Gotham Books
was released in late 2003 and
includes two additional chapters on her influences and success in
the US. Her life story has also been adapted into a
musical and also a Broadway piece for cancer benefit.
At the 2002 Winter Olympics
gala, and later on tour, figure
skater Michelle Kwan
Cassidy's music to a new audience when she skated to a recording of
"Fields of Gold". Kwan's part in exposing the music of Cassidy to
the international and American public led Cassidy's label to
present her a gold record from the certification
. Subsequently, other figure skaters such as
, Sarah Hughes
and Kimmie Meissner
have used Cassidy's music in
Anglo-Georgian singer Katie Melua is a
keen fan of Cassidy.
Her debut album "Call off the Search
" contained the song
"Faraway Voice", written in Cassidy's memory. Melua has also
performed Cassidy's arrangement of "Anniversary Song" in concert.
On Christmas Eve 2006, she performed alongside video footage of
Cassidy singing Over The Rainbow
's "Duet Impossible". One year later, Cassidy's "What A Wonderful World" was spliced
together with new vocals by Melua and released as a single
exclusively at the British retail chain Tesco.
debuted at #1 on the UK Singles chart on December 16. All profits from the
single went to the British Red Cross.
Irish singer Chris de Burgh
has stated that his song
"Songbird" from his album The Road to Freedom
in honour of Cassidy. Singer Mary
made reference to Cassidy in the song "My
Heaven" on the album Between
Here and Gone
: "More memories than my heart can hold, when
Eva's singing 'Fields of Gold'."
The first film to feature an Eva Cassidy recording was Flight
starring Dean Cain
then her music has appeared in various film and tv series including
the comedy Judging Amy
, Love Actually
, Maid in Manhattan
, The Man From Elysian
, Alpha Dog
Cassidy's arrangement of "Over the Rainbow" is a popular cover
choice by singing competition
contestants, with American
season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee
and The X Factor
season 3 winner
among the singers. Her
interpretation of "Imagine
" has been performed by
season 7 runner-up David Archuleta
Possibility of future film
In late 2007, AIR Productions acquired the rights to produce a film
based on Cassidy's life. It is being produced by Amy Redford
(daughter of Robert Redford
Shapiro and Rick Singer. In an interview a year earlier, Cassidy's
parents suggested Kirsten Dunst
as possible actresses who
could play their daughter.
|"Over the Rainbow"
|"Take My Breath Away"
|"What a Wonderful
||Posthumous duet with Katie Melua. UK
|Eva Cassidy Sings
||PAL DVD (Region
- A voice silenced in 1996 is brought back to
life Mary Johnson, "The Baltimore Sun", August 28, 2008
- Burley et al. p.13.
- The Afterlife of Eva Cassidy (PDF) Dorian
Lynske, Word Magazine, 2003. Retrieved on March 6,
- Burley et al. p.12.
- Burley et al.
- Liner notes Joel E. Siegel, Eva by
Heart. Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- Burley et al.
- Burley et al. p.64.
- When Chuck Met Eva Jefferson Morley, The
Washington Post, March 8, 1998. Retrieved on March 6,
- Side by Side Alona Wartofsky, Washington City
Paper, November 20, 1992. Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- Over the Rainbow Jeff Chu, Time, April
9, 2001. Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- Eva Cassidy's Gift Joan Anderman, Boston
Globe, January 31, 1999. Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- Wammie Winners Washington Area Music
Association. Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- Wammies honor area musicians. Washington Times.
November 9, 1994.
- Eva Cassidy: "Oh, Had I a Golden Thread"
evacassidy.org. Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- According to the liner notes of the "Live at Blues Alley" CD:"*
this wasn't in the live show but it is my favorite song..."
- Echoes of a Voice Stilled Too Early Richard
Harrington, The Washington Post, November 17, 1996.
Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- Burley et al.
- Eva Cassidy's producer Chris Biondo talks to Toby
Foster BBC Radio, July 2002. Retrieved on March 6,
- Albums from the crypt The Guardian,
November 1, 2002. Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- Eva Cassidy: Autumn Leaves Ted Gioia,
- RIAA Gives Thanks For Strong Gold and Platinum
Numbers In November RIAA News Room. Retrieved on March 6,
- Nightline Daily Email: 7/2 Leroy Sievers.
Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- 'Nightline' Boosts Cassidy Bill Holland,
Billboard Bulletin, May 30, 2001. Retrieved on March 6,
- Rebroadcast on July 4, 2001, August 15, 2002 and January 1, 2004
- Nightline Daily E-Mail: January 2, 2004, Leroy
Sievers and the Nightline Staff, January 2, 2004
- Songbird Sherri Dalphonse, Washingtonian, May
1, 2001. Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- The Official UK Albums Chart Top 75 Music
Week, August 25, 2001. Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- Internet fuels singer's posthumous success. The Deseret
News, March 11, 2001.
- Keeping the flame Mike Anderiesz, The
Guardian, April 4, 2002. Retrieved on March 14, 2008.
- Amazon.com Inducts 25 Musicians into Hall of
Fame Business Wire, July 11, 2005. Retrieved on March
- Online, Eva Cassidy Trumps Elvis Joel Topcik,
New York Times, July 24, 2004. Retrieved on March 14,
- Review of No Boundaries William Cooper,
allmusic. Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- Hugh Cassidy, et al. v. David Lourim, et al.
(PDF) United States district court for the district of Maryland.
Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- Method Actor evacassidy.org. Retrieved on March 6,
- Musical charts life of songstress Eva Cassidy
Grantham Journal, March 13, 2008. Retrieved March 17,
- Eva Cassidy Remembered Broadwayworld.com,
January 26, 2005. Retrieved March 17, 2008
- Blix Street Records Presents Kwan with Gold Record for
Cassidy's 'Songbird' Album Press release. Retrieved on March 6,
- Review: Katie Melua in concert Neil Smith,
BBC News Online, March 17, 2004. Retrieved March 17,
- BBC Duet Impossible steve-smith.tv.
Retrieved on March 18, 2008
- Melua duet headed for number one BBC
News, December 12, 2007. Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- Sheboygan native receives leadership award
Warren Gerds, Green Bay Press-Gazette, November 25, 2007.
Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- Eva Cassidy biopic in the works., Michael
Fleming, Variety, December 7, 2007. Retrieved on March 6,
- Local Singer's Career Takes Off After Death, Eva Cassidy's
Story To Be Told In Hollywood nbc4.com, November 2,
2006. Retrieved on March 6, 2008.
- Q and A Evacassidy.org.