Eva Cassidy (2 February 1963 – 2 November 1996) died twenty-four years ago

“She represents all that is good in this world.” This quotation – that Eva Cassidy added to the bottom of her portrait of Bernice, Chris Biondo’s dog – summarises her own life precisely. Eva loved animals because unlike people they never let her down. In her relationships with others she was always cautious, wary of unpleasantness or confrontation. The pain of her unhappy adolescence pursued her until her dying day.

Eva Cassidy & Chris Biondo

Eva Cassidy & Chris Biondo

But Eva Cassidy found a way of coping with the troubled waters that flowed around her life. She created beautiful things. Art became a way not only of neutralising Eva’s melancholy but it brightened up her existence to the point that she was able to sing “I think to myself, what a wonderful world” and really mean it.

Eva Cassidy solo

Eva Cassidy solo

Eva’s singing brings both hope and comfort. Her music gives listeners the strength to resign themselves to mortality, at least temporarily. The first time Eva experienced this transition was while watching Judy Garland in her dusty Kansas farmyard singing ‘Over The Rainbow’. Years later Eva gave millions of others the same thing, the chance to experience this song imbued with even greater emotional depth.

"Angel" by Eva Cassidy

“Angel” by Eva Cassidy

Art was what made Eva’s life shine. She had no interest in material things. Twenty-four years after her death Eva would more than likely feel completely out of place in our mass media technological age: money, power, fame, image – all these were of no importance to Eva. It was almost as if she knew that her life on earth would be short and that it was pointless to surround herself with worldly treasures. She felt humble, like mere stardust.

I know you by heart

I know you by heart

Blue Note President Bruce Lundvall deeply regretted that he hadn’t signed her to his label, but it was Eva who spurned him, refusing to be pigeonholed. Fame was a terrifying prospect and success at the expense of artistic freedom was anathema to her psyche. Eva shut the door on the vast sums of money that Norah Jones, the star who saved Blue Note, would earn in her place. Eva reached for higher goals, with an innate sense that longing for something was somehow more important than attaining it.

Eva Cassidy

Eva Cassidy

With one notable exception, she wrote none of her own words but those songs she chose to sing so beautifully reflected her spiritual attitude to life, love, God, nature and the universe.

Is her friend Chris Biondo right in asserting that Eva was the best singer in the world? Yes and no. There might have been more mature jazz singers than Eva, purer folk singers, more convincing gospel singers and tighter R&B singers, but no one singer mastered all these genres as well as Eva Cassidy. It’s about time that we will honour Eva as one of the most versatile, authentic and gifted singers the world has ever seen. Not because it is politically correct to say so, but because it is the truth.

“I Know You By Heart”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crUm-v6o-0s

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