The success of Eva Cassidy’s Songbird

Eva Cassidy’s success in the UK started when Terry Wogan played songs from her album Songbird on his BBC radio 2 breakfast show in the summer of 1998. Top record promotor Tony Bramwell had given up his retirement to make sure that the Songbird album would get the attention it deserved. He called Paul Walters, a BBC radio and TV producer, who was noted for his work on Wogan’s BBC Radio 2 breakfast show Wake Up To Wogan. “Dear Paul, I know you are a busy man, but you should really pay attention to this particular record.”

Tony Bramwell

Tony Bramwell

Personal relationships are valuable, especially in the highly commercialised world of the record industry and radio. Paul Walters received dozens of albums a day from hopefuls desperate to make their debut on the airwaves. If Paul had only the Songbird album cover to go on – a rather unattractive brown design with an out-of-focus Polaroid photo of an unknown girl-next-door – he might never have listened to it. But Paul knew Tony Bramwell, and if he had given up retirement to promote this new artist then she was certainly worth a listen. Paul promised to listen to ‘Over The Rainbow’, the track he’d particularly pushed. Tony’s response was quick and to the point: “No, I’d like you to listen to it this very moment.” Paul could not put off such a request. He listened to the song and it was immediately obvious that Tony hadn’t been exaggerating. “This is bloody brilliant,” he replied. “We are going with it tomorrow!”

Paul Walters

Paul Walters (1947-2006)

Terry Wogan had complete trust in Paul and he played ‘Over The Rainbow’ on his show the next day. “This is one Paul brought this morning by a lady called Eva Cassidy. Hope you like it!” At that moment, of course, neither had any inkling that Eva had passed away two years earlier. Wogan was enchanted by Eva’s voice and quickly scanned the liner notes while the song was playing. As it faded out, he said: “That was Eva Cassidy, who it seems is tragically no longer with us.” Listeners responded in droves, more than 100 sending emails within 10 minutes of the song being played. The BBC’s phone lines were jammed and letters and faxes poured in over the next few days. ‘Over The Rainbow’ might have been an old song but Eva’s version had given it a timelessness that had clearly hit a chord with the public.

Terry Wogan (1938 - 2016

Terry Wogan (1938 – 2016)

Taken by the singer and the public’s response Paul and Terry played other tracks from the album, including ‘Songbird’ and ‘Fields Of Gold’.

‘Over The Rainbow’:

11 responses to “The success of Eva Cassidy’s Songbird”

  1. Istill have this on cd ,i bought it for my ex daughter in law for xmas after a few months she returned it which shows how bad her tast is .she has since divorced my son which only proves my point.

  2. it is a shame that we did not get to hear more of this young aspiring lady. she had the most incredible voice. i heard ‘over the rainbow”, once and it hit me straight away. i was wondering where i could purchase her album. she had the voice of an angel. she would have become one of our greats. so sadly missed.

  3. Henry Fray says:

    I bought the album as soon as I heard it on Terry’s show, I play it often to this day. Her rendition of Over the Rainbow and Fields of Gold cannot be compared to anything. Such a shame Eva did not live to see her effect on the music world.

  4. Lillian rae says:

    Beautiful voice love her singing over the rainbow

  5. Tony Potts says:

    I didn’t know the full background but I remember taking my daughter to school that morning and hearing it on the Wogan show. I was astonished at the quality of her voice. Been a fan ever since. Incredible singer.

  6. Paul Dench says:

    For me it was the inclusion of ‘Songbird’ in Love Actually that captured my heart, and realised this lady had such a beautiful voice. And then you find out she is no longer with us. So sad, and such a great loss.

  7. Dennis Ryan says:

    Yes I so remember Terry introducing Over the Rainbow as I made my merry way to hell heading over the tops to Blackburn. The hairs on my neck stood up. Wow. Who is this Eva Cassidy. The search was on. Who owned this angelic voice.
    Massive thanks to Terry Tony Paul Kat and Dave………:::

  8. Patrick Fox says:

    Just a great Fan of Eva Cassidy

  9. Fields of gold eva has a voice of gold

  10. Dave Gartner says:

    Thanks for this article Katrina. I knew about Tony Bramwell contacting Paul Walters and insisting that he listen to Eva singing Over The Rainbow. I did not know that Tony had come out of retirement to promote Songbird. Given the enormous success of Eva’s record sales in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, how much of that success belongs to Tony? I know the USA record label, Blix Street Records, had produced and released Songbird earlier in 1998, but Eva’s posthumous career really took off in England on the strength of Tony’s recommendation to Paul.

    • Webmiss says:

      Thank you Dave,
      We don’t know whether Tony received enough credits for this, but we thought the least we could do is mentioning his name again!

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