Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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CASSIDY, Eva

(d 2 November 1996 aged 33) Singer with a cult following after her death. Her day job was landscaping, which meant humping dirt and rocks and kept her fit, as well as allowing her to express her artistic side. She hung out in clubs and sang a little backup; everybody loved her voice and she recorded with Washington DC R&B legend Chuck Brown (album The Other Side '95) but suffered from stage fright and did not perceive of herself as a pop star. She was taken in hand by producer Chris Biondo, who had a studio in Bowie Maryland. He recorded her as much as he could, but record companies weren't interested because she sang anything she liked: folk songs, pop songs, spirituals, standards, all made into her own jazz-inflected and absolutely uncategorizable style: no major label would have known how to market her. She was one of those white singers who some people thought was black at first; among her fans was Mick Fleetwood, who played drums for her when she sang at his club, Fleetwood's in Alexandria Virginia.

She finished making Live At Blues Alley in early '96, then became ill with a metastatic melanoma; her decline was astonishingly rapid. Posthumously issued albums include Eva By Heart, Time After Time, No Boundaries and Method Actor. Songbird is a fascinating compilation, including one track with Jones, and Pete Seeger's 'Oh, I Had A Golden Thread', on which she overdubbed herself to make a gospel choir; and closing with a stunning reinvention of Harold Arlen's 'Over The Rainbow', a miracle captured almost a cappella one day when the tape happened to be running.