Eva Cassidy lived her life and performed her music in relative obscurity. Outside of a loyal following in the Virginia/D.C. area, where she was a frequent performer at the Blues Alley, no one really heard of her or bought either of the two albums she recorded before her death from cancer in 1996. She was 33 years old.
Two years after she passed away, in 1998, a compilation of her work was released on an album called Songbird. Once again, it didn’t sell very many copies. Two years after it’s release and four years after Eva’s death, her music came to the attention of Terry Wogan and Mike Harding who played Somewhere Over The Rainbow and Fields of Gold over BBC Radio 2. Shortly afterwards, they played a camcorder recording of Eva singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow. The recording was taken by a friend while she was performing at Blues Alley seven months before she became ill and just under a year before she passed away. Within a week, Songbird rose to the top of the UK album charts and, within a month, sold 100,000 copies almost three years after it’s release.
The link to that recording is below. Keep in mind this was not done in a recording studio or cleaned up in any way. The voice you hear in the silence of that room is pure heaven. The New York Times spoke of her, “silken soprano voice with a wide and seemingly effortless range, unerring pitch and a gift for phrasing that at times was heart stoppingly eloquent”.
This song has been done by many people over the years but I’ve never heard it done quite like this.
Eventually, Songbird achieved six time platinum status in the UK and certified gold status in the U.S. Posthumously, her recordings have sold more than 10 million copies in many countries, including Australia, Germany, Sweden , Norway and Switzerland. Her recording of Fields of Gold is equally moving and another example of her amazing gift.
Its hard to imagine that a talent like this can live in obscurity for so long. Several weeks before she passed away, they held a benefit concert for her at The Bayou. On morphine, because of the pain, Eva closed the set with her rendition of…….
What A Wonderful World.
What an amazing gift.