Only the hardest heart, even knowing nothing of the singer, could hear Eva Cassidy sing “What A Wonderful World” and not be moved. If you are aware of the story of her short life, a history that defines “untimely death,” only the most desensitized could hear her music without being affected, even beyond her considerable interpretive skill.
The capsule version of Eva Cassidy’s life and career: born in 1963; grew up in a musical family; recorded 1992 album of pop standards with Washington, D.C. “king of go-go,” Chuck Brown; overcomes insecurity just enough to become a performer, many of whose shows were recorded; became a victim of cancer on November 2, 1996, age 33. She took guitar lessons from and recorded with Danny Gatton, “the world’s greatest guitar player,” who took his own life in 1994.
However often we encounter the tragedy of a “promising career cut short,” rarely has it been so true, in its promise and its brevity, as with Eva Cassidy. Like Nick Drake, Chris Bell, and innumerable others, Cassidy’s talent gained widespread recognition only posthumously.
At the time of her death, only the Live at Blues Alley album had been released; her only solo studio album, Eva by Heart, was issued the following year; neither were significantly successful until several years later. Her first successful album, Songbird, a compilation of tracks from the previous two releases, released two years after her death, only took off after its “Over the Rainbow” aired on the BBC. Once people had the chance to hear Eva Cassidy, they loved what they heard: Songbird topped both the U.S. and U.K. charts, in addition to charting in several other European countries, and has since sold more than one million copies.
Although her studio album, Somewhere, did include two of her own songs, Cassidy is known and revered as an interpreter of others’ songwriting. She sang blues, pop, soul, jazz, rock, with finesse and conviction, and each song as if it was her own. The selections here demonstrate many of Eva Cassidy’s strengths, as well as shedding light on her exception taste in selecting music that both seemed to hold meaning for her and served to showcase her abilities. Not only possessed of a remarkably expressive voice, she had the empathy to plumb the emotional depth of each song she chose.