Eva Cassidy: A Posthumous Sucess

Before her early death (age 33) in 1996, she was an almost complete unknown. But in the years since, she has become one of Amazon.com’s top 25 best-selling musicians. From Wikipedia:

After Cassidy’s death, local folk singer Grace Griffith introduced the Blues Alley recording to Bill Straw from her label, Blix Street Records.[21] Straw approached the Cassidy family to put together a new album. In 1998, a compilation of tracks from Cassidy’s three released recordings was assembled into the CD Songbird. This CD lingered in relative obscurity for two years until being given airplay by Terry Wogan on his wide-reaching BBC Radio 2 show Wake Up to Wogan, following recommendation by his producer Paul Walters. The album sold more than 100,000 copies in the following months.[2] The New York Times spoke of her “silken soprano voice with a wide and seemingly effortless range, unerring pitch and a gift for phrasing that at times was heart-stoppingly eloquent.”[21]The camcorder recording of “Over the Rainbow” as shown on Top of the Pops 2

Before Christmas of 2000, BBC’s Top of the Pops 2 aired a video of Cassidy performing “Over the Rainbow“, which resulted in Songbird climbing steadily up the UK charts over the next few weeks. Just as ITV‘s Tonight with Trevor McDonald aired a feature on Cassidy, the album topped the chart.[22] Shot at Blues Alley by a friend with a camcorder the same night the album was recorded,[2] the video became the most requested video ever shown on Top Of The Pops 2.[23] Alexis Petridis in The Guardian wrote, “There’s an undeniable emotional appeal in hearing an artist who you know died in obscurity singing a song about hope and a mystical world beyond everyday life”.[24]“There is something about her voice – a quality – that you really can’t put into words. It’s a magical quality.” —Sting on Cassidy (who had recorded a version of his song “Fields of Gold” in 1996, the year she died).[25]

Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton were among her new-found fans. Jazz critic Ted Gioia writes, “you might be tempted to write off the ‘Cassidy sensation’ … as a response to the sad story of the singer’s abbreviated life rather than as a measure of her artistry. But don’t be mistaken, Cassidy was a huge talent, whose obscurity during her lifetime was almost as much a tragedy as her early death.”[26] Songbird has since achieved significant chart success in Europe. It is certified six times platinum in the UK with 1,840,000 copies sold.[2][27] Although still relatively unknown in the US at that time, the album would eventually be certified gold there as well.[28]

In May 2001, ABC‘s Nightline in the US broadcast a well-received short documentary about Cassidy, a labor of love from Nightline correspondent Dave Marash who was a fan of her music.[29] Over the weekend, all five of Cassidy’s albums occupied Amazon.com‘s best sellers list top spots.[30] The Nightline episode has since been rebroadcast three times due to popular demand[31] and producer Leroy Sievers has said that it is “probably the most popular Nightline ever”.[32] In December, a nine-minute segment on NPR resulted in a similar sales surge, with five of the top seven spots going to Cassidy.[4] In Britain a rebroadcast of Tonight with Trevor McDonald bumped up sales.[4][33]

Since Songbird, several other CDs with original material have been released: Time After Time (2000), Imagine (2002) and American Tune (2003). 2008 saw the release of another new album, Somewhere. Unlike previous albums, which consisted solely of cover songs, this release contains two original songs co-written by Cassidy. An acoustic album, Simply Eva, was released in January 2011.

Together with word of mouth and internet fan sites, online commerce has played a big role in Cassidy’s success.[34][35] This point was further affirmed when in 2005, Amazon.com released a list of its top 25 best-selling musicians, which placed Cassidy in fifth position, behind The BeatlesU2Norah Jones and Diana Krall.[36]


Her voice was the same in the early 1990s as it was in the 21st century. But she was a perfectionist, and wanted full control over her music. The big companies did not want to bother with her then. So while she was spurned by the big media popularity machine during her life, it took full advantage of her early death to drive sales and viewership. As a human interest story, it was irresistible. Music lovers should be glad her story and her music survived.

And when ye come and all the flowers are dying
if I am dead as dead I well may be
you’ll come and find the place where I am lying
and knell and say an Ave there for me
and I shall hear tho soft ye tread above me
and all my grave will warmer sweeter be
and if you bend and tell me that you love me
than I shall sleep in peace until you come to me

Danny Boy lyrics
This entry was posted in Music. Bookmark the permalink.