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Eva Cassidy became hugely successful after her death and has remained so to this day

By Nina Steele 

I was reminded of the tragic yet equally amazing life of Eva Cassidy while watching a music show on BBC 4. The show entitled: ‘Vocal Giants and Beyond’, was a celebration of artists with amazing voices. And I was delighted that Eva Cassidy was included in the list. Like many people who came across her story all these years ago, it haunted me. It was a reminder, yet again, of how unpredictable life can be. Eva Cassidy died of cancer on November 2, 1996, aged just 33. Music had been a part of her life from a very early age, from the age of 9 to be precise. Yet success only came after her death. She had no children.

The overriding fact that I learnt from reading and watching video clips about her story was that, she was very shy, and that had she become successful during her lifetime, she may not have coped well with it. One thing all those who knew her agree on is that, she loved her craft as an artist, however, she had no interest in fame whatsoever.

Her amazing story of posthumous success was all down to the late Terry Wogan playing her version of the song ‘Over the Rainbow’ on his hugely successful radio 2 breakfast show in 2000, 4 years after her death. The show pulled in about 7 million listeners on average. A producer on ‘Top of the Pops 2’ who heard the song played, was immediately intrigued, and managed to find a video of Eva performing the song, which he played on ‘Top of the Pops 2’, on December 13th, 2000.

After the video was aired, the show’s switchboard was flooded with calls from viewers. They had been touched by Eva’s haunting voice. The show’s producers where still getting calls, 6 weeks after the video was first shown, which made them decide to air it again. This time the reaction from viewers was even greater. This led to Eva’s album climbing to the top of the chart. The album had been put together 2 years after her death, and had not done well at all, until of course Eva Cassidy became a household name.

As is often the case with success, once the ball started rolling, it didn’t stop. Even though she became an overnight sensation in the UK, she was still relatively unknown in her native USA. All that changed when her story was broadcast on ABC’s Nightline, in May 2001. After the show aired, her success in the US was secured. Her first album ‘Songbird’ was certified platinum and gold in the UK and the US respectively. Her success has spread to other parts of the world, and has continued to this day.

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