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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

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!!!
I miss you so much, Eva. Your records are my only comfort.
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
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
rroyoxcart6
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!
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