Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – Simply Eva is a posthumous 2011 album featuring 12 performances by Jazz, Blues and Pop guitarist-singer Eva Cassidy. It is the eighth posthumous album by Cassidy, who died from melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer in 1996.
I first introduced Eva Cassidy to our VOA international audience (particularly, Arabic-speaking Middle East) when she released her debut album, The Other Side, in 1995. I also profiled her in 1996 when she sang live at Blues Alley – actually, her last album carries the same title: Live at Blues Alley. Songs follow Arabic narration on the show.
Cassidy was not famous when she started in the early 1980s. Her music was not well-known, and her real talent went largely unnoticed outside her native Washington, DC, until after she died at the age of 33. Two years later, in 1998, music critics realized that Cassidy, also a talented painter, was a “Songbird” and her music was a must-have.
The majority of the songs on Simply Eva, released by BlixStreet records, was collected elsewhere in Cassidy’s discography. However, the album compiles previously unreleased songs and performances featuring the late singer as solo artist on her expressive acoustic guitar.
The previously unreleased tracks are the acoustic versions of Cassidy’s now-famous recordings such as “Songbird“, “People Get Ready”, “True Colors”, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”, “Kathy’s Song”, “San Francisco Bay Blues”, and “I Know You By Heart (a cappella)”, which ironically sounds like her finale.
Simply Eva, which made it to number four on the UK Charts last February, has been certified silver and gold.
Cassidy’s work is all over the social networks now, including YouTube. Her single “Songbird”, the title cut from an album of her works that was compiled and posthumously released in 1998, is actually a YouTube hit, registering almost seven million views. The album was certified Platinum in 2008 after it sold over one million copies.
Another song, “Fields of Gold”, got more than four million views on YouTube. But Cassidy’s fame reached a new high in 2007, when her song “What a Wonderful World” – with British singer Katie Melua – hit number one on the music charts and remained there for five weeks.
“If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have picked up the guitar and started writing songs and singing on the guitar,” says Melua, who admits Eva Cassidy inspired her. “And I just think she had such an incredible voice, and I don’t think it’d be much of an overstatement to say she’s probably the greatest singer of my generation.”
The last song on Songbird is “Over the Rainbow” taken from Cassidy’s 1995 debut album The Other Side. The song was Cassidy’s single hit on the United States and European music charts. The album was even broadcast on BBC’s Top of the Pops2.
It is really difficult to put the quality of Eva Cassidy’s voice into words. It’s “simply magical,” to borrow the words of Pop superstar Sting.
There’s a bestselling book about Cassidy’s life story — cut short by cancer at 33. Eva Cassidy: Songbird collects the intimate memories of relatives, close friends, and the musicians who collaborated with her. Also, a movie about Cassidy’s life is now in the works.
For more on jazz music, listen to VOA’s Jazz America