Eva Cassidy left in Autumn, 25 years ago

Eva Cassidy’s dream had been to record a studio album under favourable but precise circumstances. But she and friend and producer Chris Biondo had worked at too slow a pace and even then he’d had the anxious premonition that they would be too late. It’s likely that Eva’s delay in completing her work had something to do with her perfectionism; as long as your work remains unfinished no one can say that it isn’t good enough. Dozens of half-finished recordings languished on the shelves of Chris’ studio. “That is something we are going to work on later,” they used to say. But as Chris tried desperately to finish the album that would be called Eva By Heart, it became increasingly clear that there would be no later.

Eva Cassidy

Eva Cassidy

After learning of his sister’s serious illness, as soon as he was able, Dan flew to New York with Anna Karen and Blues Bar owner and friend Jonas Helgason in October 1996. During that time there were no direct flights from Iceland to Washington, D.C. and they had to make the last part of their trip by train.

Eva At Home

Eva At Home

When Chris heard that Dan was back home he asked him to play a violin part in a song he and Eva had recently discovered. ‘I Know You By Heart’ is about a cancer patient who tragically loses the fight to the disease. It was composed by Nelson Eve and Diane Scanlon, who also recorded her own version. Dan felt a bit uneasy because the song was in the difficult key of A-flat, but he retuned his violin up a half-step to play in the more relaxed key of G. He had to invent his own violin part, but Eva’s vocals inspired him to reach a higher musical level. The lyrics of the song are very touching, the line “You left in autumn” turning out to be horrifically prophetic. Eva changed the line “I see your profile” to “I see your sweet smile”.

Eva, Chris and Cat

Eva, Chris and Cat

After a day’s work Dan brought the tape to Eva who by now was confined to her bed for the better part of the day. She was very happy with the result and reacted with her usual self-mockery, saying: “Your part is good.”

Eva Cassidy died on 2 November 1996. The album Eva By Heart was released a year later.

Midnights in winter / The glowing fire

Lights up your face in orange and gold

I see your sweet smile / Shine through the darkness

Its line is etched in my memory / So I’d know you by heart

 

Mornings in april / Sharing the secrets

We’d walk until the morning was gone

We were like children / Laughing for hours

The joy you gave me / Lives on and on

‘Cause I know you by heart

 

I still hear your voice / On warm summer nights

Whispering like the wind

 

You left in autumn / The leaves were turning

I walked down roads of orange and gold

I saw your sweet smile / I heard your laughter

You’re still here beside me / Everyday

‘Cause I know you by heart

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