Most Beautiful Voice You Will Ever Hear
Biographies Of Eva Cassidy
Songbird By Heart
Cassidy was born on February 2, 1963. Growing up in a
musical family on the outskirts of Washington, DC, she
sang as a small child and later learned to play the guitar.
Even then as a child she had an amazing gift for perfect
harmony, and on family outings, she would sing, harmonising
perfectly with the music from the car radio. Her father,
a teacher of children with learning disabilities and a
part-time musician, formed a family band with Eva, her
brother Danny, on violin, and himself on bass. She endured
school, preferring her own company and, whenever possible,
being involved with music and painting.
1986 she did the art work for a projected album by a band,
Method Actor, led by a friend, Dave Lourim. She was asked
to sing on the album and was heard by producer Chris Biondo
who, impressed by her raw talent, encouraged her and introduced
her to other musicians. Cassidy appeared on several albums
as a backing singer, including E-40's I Wanna Thank You.
Meantime, Biondo was stockpiling tapes by Cassidy and
in 1991, while recording Chuck Brown And The Soul Searchers,
played examples for the group's leader. Brown was immediately
taken with her sound, as indeed would be other artists
including Roberta Flack and Shirley Horn, and in 1992
Eva and Chuck recorded The Other Side (Liaison).
the following year Chuck Brown and Eva Cassidy began performing
live, including an appearance at Washington's Blues Alley.
The collaboration with Chuck Brown was one which Eva would
value very highly. They performed well together. seem
to blend instinctively, and they respected and admired
each other as artists.
in the year, following a medical check-up, Eva Cassidy
had outpatient surgery for a malignant skin lesion on
her back. Early in 1994 she recorded for Blue Note Records
and toured with the group Pieces Of A Dream, but, unlike
the sessions with Brown, she found this musically unsatisfying.
In January 1996 she appeared at Blues Alley again, a session
that was recorded, but when summer came she was unwell.
Eva had been experiencing pain in her hip for some time.
At the time she was working for a friend in Annapolis
on murals in schools cafeterias, and she put the soreness
down to too much ladder work. Eventually Eva had a number
of tests. Although cancer was suspected, only after several
more tests, was the diagnosis confirmed: advanced melanoma.
She was told that she had three to five months to live.
was admitted to Johns Hopkins hospital. A constant stream
of friends kept coming, bringing her fruit and flowers.
She felt badly that these were going to waste, so she
asked someone to bring in paper and crayons. Often she
could not see her visitors because of the regimen she
had, so this way she helped her visitors to express themselves
to her. When one stepped off the elevator and saw the
hallways lined with people sitting on the floor colouring,
talking and getting to know each other; it was a wonderful
scene to behold. Eva had every picture hung on the big
wall at the end of her bed so she could see them.
September a tribute concert was organised. It was a moving
occasion for all. There were different artists playing
all night. Eva Cassidy came out with Chuck Brown at the
end. They chose "Red Top" for her, so she wouldn't
have to sing much. He covered her with his animated style,
letting her just stand and join in. It was a warm partnership
in song. But then she had someone bring her a stool, and
sat down to play and sing, "What A Wonderful World".
It was amazing that she pulled together all that strength
to do the number- and of course all who knew her were
all stunned. That was the last song Eva Cassidy sang in
public. It was one of those times that those who were
there, will never forget. After the concert Eva had a
couple of hundred 'thank you' cards made. She made a little
drawing for it, a heart-shaped smiling face. When friends
would visit later, they would find her bent over her pen,
handwriting notes on all the cards. She had very little
energy and stamina to sit, but she used that time to thank
her Brother Danny's last visit shortly before Eva passed
away, he recorded the violin track for " I know You
By Heart". Later her father, brother and friends
played a concert for her outside her bedroom window.
Cassidy died on 2nd November 1996. She was only 33 years
memorial service later that month was in Greenbelt park,
Maryland with the sun shining. It was as Eva would have
wanted. Her brother played the violin. Friends sang. Over
four hundred people came. A most wonderful voice had been
stilled. Yet as Sian and Peter Charlton say so beautifully
in their wonderful Welsh tribute to Eva:
'Sibrwd yn yr Yd' (a Whisper in the Corn)
dal i ganu.
dy glywed yn y glaw
yn yr yd
- somewhere still singing.
can hear you in the rain
never ending inspiration
whisper in the corn - still singing
Eva's singing voice was a crystalline soprano, ideal for
the ballads and folk songs she performed. But she also
had tremendous power and when she turned to soul and gospel-flavoured
material her voice resounded with emotional sincerity.
Her repertoire drew from all these areas and from the
more melodic aspects of contemporary pop. While she might
be placed only on the edges of jazz her conviction and
integrity would often ably carry her over the hazy boundary.
The excellent interpretation of Sting 's 'Fields Of Gold',
on 'Live At Blues Alley' and (minus the applause) on the
compilation album 'Songbird', is breathtaking in clarity
and delivery, and ofcourse her now famous interpretation
of "Over The Rainbow".
of her recorded work displays a remarkable and unspoiled
talent, and almost all of it has been released posthumously.
Although Eva Cassidy did go to art school, she never had
any formal voice training.
Britain Eva's music can be heard regularly on many radio
stations, but specially on BBC Radio 2 during the 'Wake
up to Wogan' show.
'Toggs' (Terry's old geezers and gals' as he likes to
call them), have had the pleasure of listening to her
wonderful voice many times. Thankfully she is a favourite
with Terry and Paul, the program's producer. Terry called
her once 'the late but mighty Eva Cassidy'. Chances are,
that you have heard this remarkable artist yourself, even
if you did not catch the name at the time.
you read and hear about Eva Cassidy the person, the artist,
read her story, you soon begin to understand why so many
people think she was very special indeed. Not only as
an artist, but also as a person. This from an article
by Joel E. Siegel:
was a complex person, painfully shy, vulnerable to criticism
and subject to seasonal depressions, yet opinionated and
unyielding in her personal values and artistic principles.
She loved solitude, bicycling, movies and Cheetos, hated
high school, dresses, aggressive drivers and the exploitation
of women in advertising and television. She was obsessive
about her art projects, painting, drawing, sculpting,
designing jewellery, decorating furniture and clock faces.
Extremely self-conscious, she had little interest in pursuing
a professional career in art or music, preferring to surround
herself with supportive friends who served as her advocates.
She had few possessions and modest goals, sometimes she
spoke of wanting to live in a cottage by the ocean, and
no sense of money. She didn't have a checking account
until she was 30, and worried that material success would
threaten her identity. Battling the melanoma that took
her life at 33, she told her mother "All I want to
do when I get well is sing and travel around with my music."
major record companies had difficulty trying to put Eva's
style in a category. She refused to be pushed into a single
direction, preferring instead to sing the songs she loved,
whether they were Jazz or Spiritual, Country or Pop. It
was always a sadness to her that people did not understand
that she just wanted to sing nice songs, make good music.
Bruce Lundvall president of Jazz and classics for Capitol
Records considered signing Eva Cassidy and it was he who
teamed her with the band Pieces of a Dream for a while.
But for Eva this was musically unsatisfying and he did
not pursue her talent after that.
Lundvall once said that he visited Eva when she was so
very ill and he told her that he realised that he had
made a terrible mistake not pursuing her career her way.
forever generous responded with "God bless you."
does not matter what your musical taste is. It does not
matter if you buy just one or many CDs each year. You
will find that any Eva Cassidy CD will become a treasured
is the same story, the World over, every time anyone hears
Eva Cassidy's voice for the first time.
stop what you are doing and you listen. Then you rush
out and buy the other CDs.
you will be so glad you did.
now, except for newspaper articles and websites like this,
little has been written about Eva's life. But now, for
the first time, Eva's story is told by her parents, family
Eva's essence and tender life story, Eva Cassidy: Songbird
collects the intimate memories of relatives, close friends,
and the musicians who collaborated with her. The book
tells the story of her too-brief life and enduring music.
Featuring candid full-color photos and reproductions of
Eva's original artwork, a vivid portrait emerges of a
woman who devoted her energies to the things she truly
loved-giving encouragement to those around her, tending
to plants at the nursery where she worked, and performing
her music at clubs in Washington. There are now two version
of this book as at last it has been published in the USA.
American edition contains two new chapters about her influences
and her posthumous success in her native country. With
the publication of Eva Cassidy: Songbird, the woman behind
the unforgettable voice will at last be known.
book was written by Rob Burley, Jonathan Maitland and
Elana Rhodes Byrd.
writers Rob Burley and Jonathan Maitland produced a news
story about Eva Cassidy for Granada TV in Britain, and
did many further in-depth interviews for this book. Elana
Rhodes Byrd is an attorney and close friend of the Cassidy
Songbird By Heart:
Life And Music Of Eva Cassidy
now and again you stumble across an artist or album that
simply blows you away, you find you listen over and over
again, so marvellous and rewarding is the discovery. When
friends and family of mine, after hearing something on
the radio, started to enquire if I'd heard anything by
a young lady called Eva Cassidy I drew a blank. I was
told that she died at a cruelly young age but had a voice
that was quite staggering. They spoke of songs that she
covered, such as Over The Rainbow and What A Wonderful
World. So she sang jazz then? Well, yes but blues, pop,
gospel, all kinds of styles. I became increasingly intrigued
and hurried to get hold of a copy of one of her albums.
I became interested in her story and why she never became
really famous, I had to know more, there was a certain
mystique about it all and my quest for the truth began.
This article reveals my findings.
Cassidy was born on February 2, 1963, hailing from Washington,
D.C. Her precocious talent for both music and art during
her childhood presumably emanated from her father , Hugh,
who is a sculptor besides playing bass and cello and mother
Barbara who comes from a family of craftsmen. It was through
Hugh that Eva discovered folk music of the likes of Pete
Seeger and Buffy St. Marie and by the time she was nine
years old she had begun to become intensely serious about
her music. She would practice her singing and guitar playing
incessantly and it wasn't long before the family, including
Eva's brother and fiddle player Dan, became a four-part
teenage Eva began to become known through live shows with
her brother, playing country music at a local theme park,
and also with a pop outfit called Stonehenge. Her appetite
for fine art and nature was insatiable. She took art classes
at Prince George's college but got frustrated with how
modern art had forgotten what it had learned from Vermeer,
Van Gogh and her other favorite masters. It didn't matter,
her paintings are wonderful and display a great sense
of form and colour. She also worked in a nursery as a
plant propagator after abandoning her studies.
Cassidy was a complex personality, shy and unassuming
but stubborn and opinionated, a woman of values and principles.
Her lifestyle was in direct contrast to her persona, modest,
simple, unambitious and with few possessions or personal
goals, just a thirst for the beautiful things in life.
Having no sense of money, she apparently had no bank account
until she was thirty. Uninterested in a career in music,
it was not until the winter of 1986 that Chris Biondo,
a bass player with a recording studio in Maryland, managed
to coax the apprehensive singer out of the car and inside
for a demo taping session. Biondo remembers that day well:
"She was so insecure, I had to go out to the parking
lot and coax her to come inside. When the taping, which
was for a friend's band, was finally in the can, an impressed
Biondo persuaded her to return for some solo work. For
the next eight months she would come by on her day off
from the nursery to sing and play. Just hearing her voice
made me feel happy. She had no career goals in mind, except
maybe having a demo cassette to help her get gigs as a
wasn't long before other influential people were made
aware of Eva's glorious voice through Biondo's tapes and
she began to supplement her nursery job with more session
work. One such person was Al Dale, who was responsible
for booking acts for outdoor concerts for the National
Park Service. He was hugely impressed: "I heard this
wonderful, soulful voice but couldn't see the singer from
where I was sitting in the booth. When the musicians took
a break I was expecting a black woman, but instead out
came this blonde, blue-eyed white lady. I told her how
much I loved her singing and gradually we became friends."
Eva was astonished when Al offered to help her with her
career -- "Why would anyone want to pay to hear me
they did and she played many gigs during 1990, the year
the Eva Cassidy band was formed and began to become a
major attraction, establishing a big following in and
around the D.C. area. When R&B artist Chuck Brown
got to hear Cassidy's singing, again courtesy of Biondo's
tapes, he loved her voice so much it led to her first
commercial recording as feature artist, an album of blues
and ballad duets called The Other Side in 1992.
despite the popularity in her native surroundings, widespread
acceptance was harder to come by. Her diverse mix of pop,
blues, R&B, jazz and gospel genres was confusing to
many A&R men and was ultimately hampering the chances
of her getting a major record deal. Eva's career stalled
because she refused to compromise. Al Dale recalls that
"record companies wanted to dictate her material,
to fit her into a certain mold so they could target a
specific market. But she wouldn't go along with that."
live, self-produced set at Blues Alley in Georgetown was
the alternative for the moment, a jazzy collection which
showcases her skillful interpretation and incredible delivery,
and gives us a glimpse of the real Eva, the shy girl behind
the microphone, barely making eye contact with her (enthusiastic)
audience. The selections, including an intense rendering
of Buffy Saint Marie's Tall Trees In Georgia, Pete Seeger's
Oh, If I Had A Golden Thread and a supremely melancholic
Autumn Leaves, find her paying homage to her musical influences
stretching back to her childhood. Sting's Fields Of Gold
is quite magnificent, eloquent and deeply affecting. She
dedicates a new-look What A Wonderful World to her parents
who were present in the audience, a poignant and moving
moment, but the presence of up-beat swingers like Blue
Skies and Honeysuckle Rose maintain the predominantly
optimistic outlook of the album. A typical self-critical
Eva hated the results and didn't want it released. Fortunately,
she was persuaded to let it get pressed in return for
a quality studio session. Live At Blues Alley became,
despite limited air play on radio and small distribution,
a critically acclaimed and big selling record in D.C.
in 1996. The studio session she requested became what
will remain her magnum opus.
By Heart was posthumously released locally in 1997 but
is now, with Blues Alley, available for the first time
internationally. And about time too. The elegant and understated
voice heard on the opener, I Know You By Heart, which
features brother Dan's expressive fiddle accompaniment,
is both moving and uplifting at the same time. As with
the live performances, these are not mere cover versions
but fresh and heartfelt renditions in which she brings
new, seemingly impossible dimensions to the simplest of
songs. The moods and dynamics of the excellent music making
heard here shift constantly from exultation to regret,
introspective then full-throated. Time Is A Healer is
a soul-stirring gospel ballad featuring a wonderful backing
of Eva's layered vocals. Note also the delightful and
felicitious pizzicato strings which introduce the chorus.
Immensely affirming, spiritual music of massive substance
and integrity. Listen also to Say Goodbye, where Cassidy
dons a contemporary and popular hat for a fine, soulful
boy she swings in the best Ella-like fashion on tracks
like the jazz standard Blues In The Night and Wade In
The Water, where her timing, the bending of notes and
even a bit of scat in the former reveal an amazing understanding
of jazz (Listening to Cassidy's phrasing I found myself
being reminded of the young jazz vocalist Claire Martin
at times and then, on inspection of the sleeve, I found
the Linn artist's remarks of appreciation for Eva) not
to mention her affinity with folk song, where we are treated
to a most evocative and atmospheric treatment (with sound
effects) of Waly Waly. Indeed, Eva's arrangements on each
and every track are explicit and inventive, with tasteful
multi-miked backing choruses and jazz bands, self-picked
guitars, string choirs and a solitary violin or oboe here
and there to add a reflective colouring to the more intimate
moments. That this project was a labour of love is clearly
evident from the attention to detail, the skillfully constructed
sound palette and the superb recording quality.
albums have been re-released due to the promotion and
success of Songbird, an assembly of 10 tracks from both
solo albums (the songs from Eva By Heart are unreleased
takes for some reason) plus one from the duet record with
Chuck Brown. It's been nice to hear Eva's voice on BBC
Radio Two recently and to find Songbird on prominent display
in the major high street retailers too. Eva Cassidy should
have been there long ago for she possessed a truly great
but never fully realized talent. She was on the brink
of true stardom and a major label deal when she died of
malignant melanoma in November 1996 at the age of 33.
We should treasure these truly remarkable albums for they
keep alive the spirit and beauty of a great lady who,
according to Joel E. Siegel in his sleeve notes to Eva
By Heart, remains "one of the greatest voices of
Ask Men Biography
Eva Cassidy's tragically short life began on February
2, 1963, in Oxon Hill, Maryland, near Washington D.C.
She grew up there, and in Bowie, Maryland. She showed
an aptitude for art early on, and, at around age 9, a
serious love of music developed. Although her father,
Hugh Cassidy, earned his living as a special education
teacher, he was also a bassist, cellist and sculptor.
He taught Eva the rudiments of guitar, and soon formed
a family folk group with Eva's brother Danny on fiddle.
It quickly became clear that Eva had a gifted singing
youngsters, she and Danny got a regular gig playing country
music at a local amusement park. It was good practice,
but Eva, a shy and sensitive child, found performing too
stressful and opted out. She would continue singing in
high school, mostly with a pop/rock group called Stonehenge,
and upon graduating, began to study art at a local community
soon grew disenchanted and impatient with her studies,
finding that she wasn't really learning anything, and
began working at a plant nursery instead. In 1986, her
old friend David Lourim persuaded her to be a backup vocalist
in his band, Method Actor. At the studio she met producer
Chris Biondo, whom she would work with on many occasions
as a backup singer, and would later date.
Biondo, Eva flexed her skills in a wide variety of musical
styles, including rap and Washington D.C.'s regional jazz-funk
style known as go-go. At Biondo's urging, she recorded
on her own here and there, and also began to overcome
her reservations about performing solo.
Doin' The Duet
1990 Biondo played some of Eva's demos for Chuck Brown,
the D.C. legend who had masterminded the go-go sound.
Brown had long wanted to do more jazz and soul material,
and found in Eva's interpretations the perfect match for
his voice. Eva Cassidy and Chuck Brown soon recorded an
album together entitled The Other Side, which was released
in 1992 on a local label. The pair performed frequently
in the D.C. area, and built up something of a following.
Eva's manager Al Dale worked at bringing her voice to
the rest of the world. Many a record label was interested,
but they all found her repertoire, which included jazz,
blues, folk, R&B, and rock songs, too broad to market.
The jazz label, Blue Note, did recruit her for a stint
with the jazz/pop group Pieces of a Dream, but after a
single and a tour in 1994, Eva decided she didn't like
their sound and returned home.
Firsts And Lasts
September 1993, Eva had a tumor removed from her neck
and, thinking little of it, didn't follow up on her checkups.
She continued to play around town, often with Brown, and
earned several local music awards. In January of 1996,
she gave two performances at the club Blues Alley that
were recorded by Biondo and Dale. Despite her reservations,
the pair convinced her to let them release the recordings,
and the album instantly became a local favorite.
working on her first studio record, eventually to be called
Eva By Heart, she moved to Annapolis, Maryland, and took
a job painting murals in elementary schools. Soon after,
her hip began to hurt her, and she assumed that the pain
was being caused by the step ladder that she stood on
all day, but when she had it checked out, she discovered
that her hip bone was actually broken. Further tests revealed
that the melanoma from her tumor had spread to her lungs
and bones. She was told she had three to five months to
September 1996, a benefit was held in Eva's honor. She
took the stage to sing a little duet with Chuck Brown,
and then, to everyone's surprise, summoned the strength
to perform "What a Wonderful World" on her own.
It was the last song she would ever perform. Eva Cassidy
died on November 2, 1996, after spending a few months
in the hospital.
By Heart came out as planned on the D.C. Liason label
in 1997, to expected acclaim. Soon after, folk singer
Grace Griffith convinced her label Blix Street to release
a compilation of Eva's songs called Songbird. The disc
found its way into the hands of British BBC disc jockey
Terry Wogan, who began playing Eva's recording of "Somewhere
Over The Rainbow" with some frequency.
received a flurry of requests for the song and inquiries
about the artist. Songbird quickly climbed the charts,
hit No. 1, and sold over a million copies in the UK. Several
more albums of released and unreleased material have done
similarly well, and Eva has finally received the recognition
Joel E. Siegel
1986, she arrived at bassist Chris Biondo's Maryland recording
studio to sing for a demo by Method Actor, a soft rock
band headed by her high school friend, Dave Lourim. "It
was the middle of winter," Biondo remembers. "She
was so insecure, I had to go out to the parking lot and
coax her to come inside." He was impressed with her
singing and invited her to return so that he could record
her as a soloist. "For the next eight months, she'd
come by on her day off from the nursery to sing and play.
Just hearing her voice made me feel happy. She had no
career goals in mind, except maybe having a demo cassette
to help her get gigs as a backup singer."
played Eva's tapes for musicians, and soon she was singing
on Go-Go, rap and pop sessions. One day, Al Dale, whose
job with the National Park Service included booking entertainment
for outdoor concerts, dropped into Biondo's studio. "I
heard this wonderful, soulful voice but couldn't see the
singer from where I was sitting in the booth. When the
musicians took a break, I was expecting a black woman,
but instead out came this blonde, blue-eyed white lady.
I told her how much I loved her singing and gradually
we became friends. When I offered to help her with her
career, she seemed astonished. The first thing she said
was `Why would anyone want to pay to hear me sing?' She
had no idea how great she was."
by Biondo and Dale, she formed the Eva Cassidy Band in
the spring of 1990. At first, she felt uncomfortable on-stage,
keeping her eyes downcast to avoid making contact with
the audience. But as she came to realize how much people
enjoyed her music, she gradually evolved into a more confident,
outgoing performer. The group's appearances at Blues Alley,
the Wharf, the Birchmere, 219, Fleetwood's and other D.C.
area clubs attracted a hard-core following.
a recording session, Biondo played Eva's tapes for Go-Go
godfather Chuck Brown, who remained in the studio until
dawn listening to her voice. "The first four or five
notes and I knew this lady really had something,"
Brown recalls. "She was singing `Stormy Monday' and
`God Bless The Child,' songs I grew up with. She sounded
so sweet and mellow, and had so much soul and feeling.
I've earned my living playing rhythm and blues and rock
and roll, but never considered myself a jazz or blues
performer. When Eva agreed to make an album with me, she
gave me the inspiration and confidence to try something
I used to lie in my bed dreaming about but was always
afraid to do." The result was The Other Side, a CD
of ballads and blues duets released in November 1992,
which led to concert appearances with Brown at the Kennedy
Center and Wolf Trap. "Eva opened a lot of doors
for me. Performing with her was the most exciting part
of my career. She will always be in my heart."
approached record labels to sign Eva as a solo artist,
but her eclectic repertoire, jazz, blues, folk, standards,
gospel, pop, confused short-sighted a&r directors.
"Eva was a pure artist," Dale observes. "She
chose songs that moved her, that allowed her to express
her feelings. Record companies wanted to dictate her material,
to fit her into a certain mold so they could target a
specific market. But she wouldn't go along with that.
She refused to compromise her music to make it more commercial."
by the record industry, Biondo and Dale decided to showcase
Eva's music on a self-produced CD, taped live at Georgetown's
Blues Alley in January 1996. Characteristically, she was
unsatisfied with the results, and begged them not to release
the album. After considerable persuasion, a compromise
was reached. She agreed to let them issue the live CD
if she could immediately begin working on a follow-up
studio album. Her insecurity about Live At Blues Alley
was unfounded. When the album appeared in June, Washington
reviewers hailed it as one of the most accomplished solo
vocal debuts of the decade. The public's response was
equally enthusiastic. Despite minimal advertising and
limited airplay, Live at Blues Alley became one of the
D.C. area's best-selling records of 1996.
By Heart is Cassidy's artistic testament, demonstrating
the scope, versatility and depth of her talents. She was
attracted to songs that express profound themes (love,
loss, transcendence, redemption) drawn from a diversity
of musical traditions, which she transforms, into haunting
personal statements. Words are inadequate to capture the
crystalline splendor of her singing, her pinpoint intonation
and effortless control, her luxuriant multitracked choral
backgrounds, her astonishing dynamics that range from
the opalescent caress of ballads to full-throated, roof-raising
blues and gospel shouts. The wonder of her sound is complemented
by her fluent skills as an instrumentalist, guitar and
keyboards, and the resourcefulness of her arrangements,
which enfold her voice and guitar in layered harmonic
textures. But even more impressive than her musicianship
is the sheer, heartfelt emotion she conveys, cutting to
the core of feelings all of us experience but can only
of the greatest voices of her generation, Eva Cassidy
never regretted failing to achieve the recognition she
deserved. People who knew and loved her feel that this
private, stubborn, sensitive woman would not have tolerated
the intrusions and inconveniences of celebrity, and probably
would have pedaled away from the limelight on her bicycle.
Eva By Heart is the treasure she has bequeathed to us.
Its appearance commemorates an extraordinary creative
spirit and marks the beginning of an inspiring musical
The Liner Notes Of Eva By Heart