"I have the easiest job in the world. All I have to do is sing and play the guitar."
- Eva Cassidy, 1996, when asked if her illness would interfere with performing
American singer, 1963-1996
Eva Cassidy was born on February 2, 1963, in Washington, DC. She began drawing at age 2 1/2. At age 9, she began to get serious about music, learning to sing and play the guitar. Her father, a bassist and cellist, introduced her to folk music and they formed a family ensemble that also included her brother Dan, an accomplished violinist. While in her teens, she performed with a pop group named Stonehenge, and as part of a country band with her brother.
After graduating from high school in 1981, she enrolled in art classes at Prince George's Community College. She was unsatisfied with the level of instruction she received, so she dropped out and worked as a plant propagator in a nursery. During this time she continued with her music and art as hobbies, showing little interest in a professional career in either field.
She began to record demos in 1986. Chris Biondo, the owner of the studio, along with Al Dale, an entertainment booker, urged her to pursue a career in music. Eva, who was painfully shy and insecure, was shocked; she didn't think people would be willing to pay to hear her sing. Nevertheless, she formed the Eva Cassidy band in 1990, and eventually became a more confident performer.
She recorded The Other Side, a collaboration with Chuck Brown. It was released in 1992. This CD included her version of "Over The Rainbow", which, years later, would bring her international renown.
During this time, Al Dale began to approach record labels to try to get Eva a deal, but they scoffed. Record executives were concerned that she didn't fit into any easily defined genre, and she didn't want to let any record company dictate her material.
Having failed at getting a record deal, Eva recorded Live At Blues Alley in January 1996. She was not happy with the results, so she begged Biondo and Dale not to release the CD. She finally allowed them to release it under the condition that she would record a studio CD immediately after this CD's release. In spite of her worries, the CD was a hit with local critics and fans alike, and became one of the DC area's best sellers that year. The studio CD, Eva By Heart, was recorded later that year. During this time she fell ill, and was diagnosed with advanced melanoma. She died on November 2, 1996.
In 1998, Songbird was released. This CD was a compliation of songs previously recorded on The Other Side, Live At Blues Alley, and Eva By Heart (though some of the recordings were different from the recordings on the previously released CDs). Time After Time would follow in 2000.
It wasn't until 2001, though, that her popularity began to soar. A television documentary of her life was broadcast in the UK that year. Thanks to that documentary, Songbird shot to #1 on the UK album charts, and sold well in the US as well. Further CD releases would follow: Imagine was released in 2002, American Tune in 2003, and Wonderful World in 2004.
"she could sing anything-folk, blues, pop,jazz, R&B, gospel-and make it sound like it was the only music that mattered ... "- The Washington Post
Information from the following:
"Eva By Heart" liner notes, Joel E. Siegel