Growing up in a musical family on the outskirts of Washington, DC, Cassidy sang as a small child and later learned to play the guitar. Her father, a teacher of children with learning disabilities and a part-time musician, formed a family band with Eva, her brother, Daniel, on violin, and himself on bass. She became more involved with music and painting as a teenager, balancing her artistic pursuits with the demands of her day job in a local garden centre. In 1986 she did the art work for a projected album by a local band, Method Actor. She was asked to sing on the album and was heard by producer and bass player Chris Biondi who, impressed by her raw talent, encouraged her and introduced her to other musicians. Cassidy appeared on several albums as a backing singer, including 1989's Livin' Large by Washington, DC go-go funksters E.U..
Meantime, Biondi was stockpiling tapes by Cassidy and in 1991, while recording Chuck Brown And The Soul Searchers, played examples for the band's leader. Brown was immediately taken with her sound, and in 1992 Brown and Cassidy recorded The Other Side. Early the following year Brown and Cassidy began performing live, including an appearance at Washington's Blues Alley, and went on the road. Later in the year, following a medical check-up, Cassidy had outpatient surgery for a malignant skin lesion. Early in 1994 she demoed for Blue Note Records and toured with Pieces Of A Dream, but, unlike the sessions with Brown, she found this musically unsatisfying. In January 1996, she appeared at Blues Alley again, a session that was recorded, but when summer came she was unwell. This time the check-up revealed advanced melanoma and she was told that she had three to five months to live. In September, a tribute concert was organized at which she sang, as did Brown. She died two months later.
In 1998, shortly after the release of the compilation Songbird, the BBC radio producer Paul Walters playlisted a couple of tracks for the UK's popular Terry Wogan breakfast show. The response from listeners was considerable, and sales of Cassidy's back catalogue picked up. Nearly four years later, the album reached the top of the UK chart. Two further posthumous collections, Imagine and American Tune, also topped the UK album chart, and her albums have sold over 6 million copies worldwide.
Cassidy's singing voice was a crystalline soprano, ideal for the ballads and folk songs she performed. However, she also had tremendous power and when she turned to soul, blues and gospel-flavoured material her voice resounded with emotional sincerity. Her repertoire drew from all these areas and from the more melodic aspects of contemporary pop. While she might be placed only on the edges of jazz her conviction and integrity would often ably carry her over the hazy boundary. Her excellent interpretations of Sting's 'Fields Of Gold', on Eva By Heart, and Cyndi Lauper's 'Time After Time' are breathtaking in clarity and delivery. Most of her recorded work displays a remarkable and unspoiled talent, and almost all of it has been released posthumously. Cassidy's entire back catalogue is worthy of attention although recent compilations represent some inferior covers.
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