My friend Jessica first introduced me to Eva Cassidy a couple years ago. We sang “Over the Rainbow” and “Time After Time” together at an event. Our friend Neil played piano. Both song arrangements were tough for me and showed me I had a lot more to learn about singing.
In September I started voice lessons. I love jazz so I sang “Can’t Help Loving That Man” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.”
Then one day we tried Eva Cassidy’s “Over the Rainbow” and the spirit of the song took over. We worked on it for months, singing it over and over and over. I never grew tired of singing the song. Every time I sang the song’s essence changed, deepened. It became more than music for me. It became a meditation.
Eva Cassidy was a singer in the Washington area through the late 1980s and early 1990s. She mostly sang in blues and jazz clubs. She wasn’t well known beyond a dedicated local following. At the age of 33 she died of melanoma. In 1998 a host on BBC radio, Terry Wogan, played some tracks from her posthumously released “Songbird” album that the family put together in 1996. Eva Cassidy climbed the UK charts and “Songbird” sold more than 100,000 copies.
I’ve spent hours listening to Eva Cassidy on my commute to work. Then, on Sunday afternoons I sit in my favourite chair with a cozy blanket, my eyes closed, getting lost in the notes.
She sings a lot of songs I’ve heard before but she sings them in a way I’ve never heard them.
The tempo is often slower than the original. A silky voice, effortlessly rising and falling, using crescendo and decrescendo in unexpected places.
Her style can best be described as jazz and blues, but my research shows that she didn’t want to be locked into one style. Eva Cassidy created an eclectic song collection with many gospel, country, and pop songs too.
In January I decided to learn more and declared to my family and friends that from now on I will only learn Eva Cassidy songs. A deep study of a master, the way artists learn from master painters.
Singing Eva Cassidy inspires me to slow down, to connect to each small moment, to play with my voice, and to use music as a tool for self-development.
A couple weeks ago at my music lesson in our last run of “Time After Time” it surprised me the way emotion rose up through the notes. A mix of solitude, sadness, and optimism. Complex and real. It was like when I’m watching a play and suddenly I notice tears in my eyes. The emotional and physical reaction preceded thought. In this moment I first realized that in life we rarely feel one thing at a time, that in music we express things the body remembers that the mind has tucked away. When surrendering to a song, immersing fully in the experience of a song, moments like these show me the interconnectedness of music and self.
Thank-you Eva Cassidy. I look forward to learning more from you.
I read an anecdote in the book about Eva’s life that her boyfriend first heard her sing “Over the Rainbow” when they were driving to IKEA.
…I started crying feebly and I pull over and regain my composure to continue the journey safely… The only thing that was different between ‘Over the Rainbow,’ the way she sang it in the car and the way she recorded it, was she changed two notes.Chris Biondo. Eva Cassidy: Her Story by Those Who Knew Her