As we celebrate the third anniversary of David’s “Imagine” this week, it is only fair that I spotlight Eva Cassidy, the songstress who only achieved fame after her premature death at the age of 33 in 1996. She had died of cancer at such a young age, and still, she left a poignant legacy that is felt today by any true and devoted David Archuleta fan.
It was a young David, who was introduced to her “Fields of Gold” recording at the Winter 2002 Olympics, when Michelle Kwan skated to this ethereal music, and who would later find inspiration from Eva’s own signature take on John Lennon’s classic.
When Eva Cassidy was 20 years old, she sang and played guitar during the summer at the Wild World theme park. She was painfully shy (um… sounds familiar?), but her love of singing helped her transcend her fears of performing in front of strangers. She continued to work with several bands and played at local pubs in the Washington D.C. area before she graced the stage of the legendary jazz club, Blues Alley, and partnered with a blues legend, Chuck Brown, who was thoroughly amazed at this “white girl schooling him on the blues.”
It wasn’t until she was 30 years old that a major label, Blue Note, tried to sign her, but Eva Cassidy refused to compromise her versatility as the label wanted to pigeonhole her as a “jazz singer” when Eva sang all sorts of genres: jazz, blues, gospel, standards, even a bit of pop (despite her disinterest in singing “pop crap,” she gives Cyndi Lauper a run for her money with her brilliant cover of “Time After Time“). Sadly, Blue Note couldn’t correct their mistake as, three years later, Eva died of melanoma. Her friends and family put on a special concert in her honor, in which she sang in public for the last time to a grateful crowd a stunning delivery of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”
As things go, we always have to wait for folks across the pond – in Britain to be specific – to launch her fame, where radio programmers have control over their playlists and music folks have a healthy appreciation for America’s founding musical genres: blues, jazz, rock. It would take a special program on ABC’s Nightline about “The Eva Cassidy Story” in 2001 to really launch her name in the U.S.
Watch this and weep:
Somewhere between John Lennon’s worldwide legendary status and Eva Cassidy’s own underground status before she broke into the mainstream posthumously, David might fall in the middle. Of course, he always has the potential to break the mold and surprise everyone. Exhibit A: his take on “Imagine,” all three versions performed on Idol.
Thank the heavens for John and Eva and their influence on The Voice.