Eva Cassidy, a Jazz, R&B, and Pop Songbird

Posted July 12th, 2011 at 11:14 pm (UTC+0)
2 comments

Eva Cassidy

Eva Cassidy

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.

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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.

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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.

Eva By Heart

Eva By Heart

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.

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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.

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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.”

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Cassidy’s “Songbird” featured five songs from her 1997 album, Eva by Heart. They are: “Wade in the Water”, “Wayfaring Stranger”, “Songbird” and “Time is a Healer”.

Eva Cassidy outside Blues Alley in Washington DC

Eva Cassidy outside Blues Alley in Washington DC

It also featured four tracks from her Live at Blues Alley album: “Fields Of Gold”, “Autumn Leaves”, “People Get Ready”, and “Oh Had I a Golden Thread”.

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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.

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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.

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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

Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

2 Responses to “Eva Cassidy, a Jazz, R&B, and Pop Songbird”

  1. Jan F says:

    Great pice about the brilliant Eva Cassidy. It would have been nice to have given an acknowledgement to Broadcaster Terry Wogan, who featured Eva on his BBC Radio 2 morning program, which is where she was given her first large scale exposure to a UK audience. Her career rocketed after this.. She is sadly missed.. RIP Eva..

  2. Scott Peterkin says:

    Eva Cassidy deserves to be recognized for being one of the greatest female artists America has yet to produce. Her performances not only included Jazz, Blues and Pop (as your wonderful article pointed out) but also Folk and Country. That she was able to contribute high quality original musical output in each category differentiates her from other artists. Her use of phrasing and dynamics emphasizes the emotion of the song the same way great actors use language to communicate feeling. A listen to her version of “Danny Boy” and will reveal a sensitivity to both words and music few other singers have been able to find. Please continue your coverage of this important artist. I believe her story is far from over.

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VOA’s music bloggers bring you info about all kinds of music. Katherine Cole will keep you up-to-date on the world of Bluegrass and Americana music while Ray McDonald rocks the Pop charts and artists. Diaa Bekheet  jams with you on Jazz.  Visit us often. Your comments are welcome.

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