Eva Cassidy, whose pure, powerful voice caused a collective spontaneous reaction around the world that she did not live to witness, continues to touch her millions of fans, more than seven years after her death on Nov. 2, 1996 from melanoma at the age of 33.
With more than six million CDs sold around the world (over two million in the U.S.), Cassidy has achieved an unprecedented three consecutive posthumous No. 1 albums in England: Songbird in March, 2001; Imagine in August, 2002; and American Tune in August, 2003.
Born in Washington, DC, Cassidy grew up around music. She was encouraged to sing at home with her three siblings from an early age and became serious about music and guitar playing at age nine. By high school, she was in a band and sang at weddings.
Cassidy worked in a plant nursery by day to fulfill her desire to be close to nature and played in local clubs by night, developing a loyal following. Her canon of recordings began when she wandered into producer Chris Biondo’s studio to sing backup on a band’s demo to make extra money. Biondo, impressed with her talent, asked her to come back so he could record her as a soloist. In 1992, The Other Side, a collection of blues duets by Washington’s “king of go-go” Chuck Brown and Cassidy was released by local Liaison Records. Next came Live At Blues Alley, her first solo album, which was recorded at the D.C. nightspot and released locally in the spring of 1996. At the time, she and Biondo were also at work on a studio album which was to become Eva by Heart, completed by Chris Biondo and released locally by Liaison Records almost a year after Eva's death.
After Cassidy’s terminal cancer diagnosis, Blix Street Records recording artist Grace Griffith, a friend and fan of Cassidy’s, sent label owner Bill Straw a copy of Live At Blues Alley. “We have this nightingale that I’m afraid we’re going to lose,” Griffith told Straw. “She was the greatest singer I’ve ever heard; she never knew how good she was.” Straw made an agreement with Cassidy’s parents one year after Eva’s passing and worked closely with them to catalogue Cassidy’s body of work.
In April, 1998, Los Angeles-based Blix Street began a campaign to bring Eva Cassidy's music to the world with the release of Songbird, a collection containing re-defining versions of Sting's "Fields of Gold," Christine McVie's signature "Songbird," and classics "Autumn Leaves" and "Over The Rainbow." In England the e-mails flooded BBC Radio 2 after morning radio personality Terry Wogan began to play "Over the Rainbow" and other tracks from Songbird. Sales grew steadily as the print media and public radio stations across America, England and Australia began to discover Eva Cassidy.
Blix Street Records had also released Live At Blues Alley and Eva By Heart during the summer of 1998, the first national exposure for both albums, followed in May, 2000 by Time After Time, the second collection selected from Eva Cassidy's catalog of unreleased recordings.
In Britain, the airing on BBC's Top of the Pops2 of a grainy video of Cassidy performing “Over the Rainbow” sent Songbird back into the British album charts. It was re-broadcast in January, 2001 due to viewer requests (that the BBC reports was the most in the history of the show), which in turn ignited a print and television media frenzy. By March 18, 2001, Songbird had ascended to Number One on the British and Irish Pop Charts.
Two more Eva Cassidy collections have been released since Songbird first went No. 1 in Britain in March of 2001. Both Imagine and American Tune entered the British charts at No. 1, in August of 2002 and August of 2003 respectively.
The Songbird album was officially certified Gold in the U.S. (500,000 copies) by the RIAA (Recording Industry Assn. of America) on Nov. 2, 2001, five years to the day following her passing and is now near platinum (1,000,000).
Grammy®-winning music writer Joel E. Siegel called her “one of the greatest voices of her generation,” while Don Heckman of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Definitions become virtually useless to describe the singing of Eva Cassidy.” A recent BBC poll put her 21st in a list of the “100 Voices of the 20th Century." “She sang for the pure joy of singing,” said her mother, Barbara Cassidy, “however, the spirit would move her.” Now we are all sharing that joy.