Eva Cassidy was born 2 February 1963. Growing up in a musical family on the outskirts of Washington, DC, she sang as a small child and later learned to play the guitar. Even then as a child she had an amazing gift for perfect harmony, and on family outings, she would sing, harmonising perfectly with the music from the car radio. Her father, a teacher of children with learning disabilities and a part-time musician, formed a family band with Eva, her brother Danny, on violin, and himself on bass. She endured school, preferring her own company and, whenever possible, being involved with music and painting.
In 1986 she did the art work for a projected album by a band, Method Actor, led by a friend, Dave Lourim. She was asked to sing on the album and was heard by producer Chris Biondo who, impressed by her raw talent, encouraged her and introduced her to other musicians. Cassidy appeared on several albums as a backing singer, including E-40's I Wanna Thank You. Meantime, Biondo was stockpiling tapes by Cassidy and in 1991, while recording Chuck Brown And The Soul Searchers, played examples for the group's leader. Brown was immediately taken with her sound, as indeed would be other artists including Roberta Flack and Shirley Horn, and in 1992 Eva and Chuck recorded The Other Side (Liaison).
Early the following year Chuck Brown and Eva Cassidy began performing live, including an appearance at Washington's Blues Alley. The collaboration with Chuck Brown was one which Eva would value very highly. They performed well together. seem to blend instinctively, and they respected and admired each other as artists.
Later in the year, following a medical check-up, Eva Cassidy had outpatient surgery for a malignant skin lesion on her back. Early in 1994 she recorded for Blue Note Records and toured with the group 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. Eva had been experiencing pain in her hip for some time. At the time she was working for a friend in Annapolis on murals in schools cafeterias, and she put the soreness down to too much ladder work. Eventually Eva had a number of tests. Although cancer was suspected, only after several more tests, was the diagnosis confirmed: advanced melanoma. She was told that she had three to five months to live.
Eva was admitted to Johns Hopkins hospital. A constant stream of friends kept coming, bringing her fruit and flowers. She felt badly that these were going to waste, so she asked someone to bring in paper and crayons. Often she could not see her visitors because of the regimen she had, so this way she helped her visitors to express themselves to her. When one stepped off the elevator and saw the hallways lined with people sitting on the floor colouring, talking and getting to know each other; it was a wonderful scene to behold. Eva had every picture hung on the big wall at the end of her bed so she could see them.
In September a tribute concert was organised. It was a moving occasion for all. There were different artists playing all night. Eva Cassidy came out with Chuck Brown at the end. They chose "Red Top" for her, so she wouldn't have to sing much. He covered her with his animated style, letting her just stand and join in. It was a warm partnership in song. But then she had someone bring her a stool, and sat down to play and sing, "What a Wonderful World". It was amazing that she pulled together all that strength to do the number- and of course all who knew her were all stunned. That was the last song Eva Cassidy sang in public. It was one of those times that those who were there, will never forget. After the concert Eva had a couple of hundred 'thank you' cards made. She made a little drawing for it, a heart-shaped smiling face. When friends would visit later, they would find her bent over her pen, handwriting notes on all the cards. She had very little energy and stamina to sit, but she used that time to thank people.
On her Brother Danny's last visit shortly before Eva passed away, he recorded the violin track for " I know You By Heart". Later her father, brother and friends played a concert for her outside her bedroom window.
Eva Cassidy died on 2nd November 1996. She was only 33 years old.
The memorial service later that month was in Greenbelt park, Maryland with the sun shining. It was as Eva would have wanted. Her brother played the violin. Friends sang. Over four hundred people came. A most wonderful voice had been stilled. Yet as Sian and Peter Charlton say so beautifully in their wonderful Welsh tribute to Eva: 'Sibrwd yn yr Yd' (a Whisper in the Corn)