A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

miscellaneous news
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MUSINGS # 23 (article first published : 2006-10-16)

Wednesday nights are currently offering little to my taste on TV. Thus this past week I decided to spend the evening practising painting roses and leaves, to the accompaniment of some stimulating music – having, at the age of almost sixty, only recently begun Saturday morning classes to learn what is termed Folk Art - and I settled on the amazingly talented Eva Cassidy, she who sang with such crystalline splendour before dying tragically young on November 2,1996, at only 33.

Eva’s versatility is nothing short of amazing, and some of her covers are FAR superior to the originals, among them Sting’s very beautiful Fields of Gold, but there are MANY others, including Autumn Leaves, Over the Rainbow, Ain’t No Sunshine, It Doesn’t Matter Anymore and What a Wonderful World.

Born on February 2, 1963, Eva grew up in a musical family on the outskirts of Washington DC. A deeply though unconventionally spiritual person, she viewed her voice as a gift but also an obligation. Clearly, she’d inherited a predisposition for creative expression from her parents – her father, Hugh, who was a bassist, cellist and sculptor, and her mother, Barbara, who came from a family of craftsmen and decorators. Eva herself began drawing at the age of two and a half, her sensitivity to form and colour becoming immediately apparent. At the age of nine she became serious about music – singing and practising guitar hour after hour. Her father taught her the rudiments of guitar technique and introduced her to folk music. They formed a family ensemble that combined four-part vocal harmony with his bass, Eva’s guitar, and her brother Dan’s violin.

There’s much about Eva that only came to the attention of her fans after her tragic death from cancer when a marvellous documentary was made detailing her life and her talent, which I happened to catch on our SABC3, and here I must give credit to this particular station for the MANY excellent music offerings they’ve treated their viewers to over the last couple of years. I have personally discovered many delightful voices to add to my ever-growing repertoire in this fashion.

Since then I’ve read up on her and discovered that she was a complex person, painfully shy, vulnerable to criticism, and subject to seasonal depressions, yet opinionated and stubborn, unyielding in her personal values and artistic principles. It’s said that she was obsessive about her art projects: painting, drawing, sculpting, designing jewellery, as well as decorating furniture and clock faces. Extremely self-conscious, she had little interest in pursuing a professional career in art or music, preferring to surround herself with supportive friends who served as her advocates.

She had few possessions, and modest goals, with no sense of money: she did not even have a cheque account until she was 30, and worried that material success would threaten her identity. What a unique attitude compared to the contemporary singers we see in music videos these days!

Eva never regretted failing to achieve the recognition she deserved. People who knew and loved her feel that this private, stubborn, sensitive woman would not have tolerated the inconveniences and intrusions of celebrity, and probably would have pedalled away from the limelight on her bicycle! It’s said all she dreamed of was living a quiet life somewhere by the sea.

I read that she felt uncomfortable onstage, keeping her eyes downcast to avoid making contact with the audience when she performed with her Eva Cassidy Band, formed in 1990. But as she came to realise how much people enjoyed her music, she gradually evolved into a more confident and outgoing performer. She always chose songs that moved her, that allowed her to express her feelings, refusing to compromise her music to make it more commercial. She was attracted mostly to songs that expressed profound themes such as loss, love, transcendence and redemption, drawn from a diversity of musical traditions, which she transformed into haunting personal statements.

I’ve touched before on her diversity. Her astonishing dynamics ranged from the opalescent caress of ballads to full-throated, roof-raising blues, as well as astoundingly stirring gospel shouts. Her voice always reflected pinpoint intonation and effortless control, with luxuriant multi-tracked choral backgrounds. The wonder of her sound is complemented by her fluent skills as an instrumentalist, guitar and keyboard player, and the resourcefulness of her arrangements, which enfold her voice and guitar in layered, harmonic textures.

Battling the melanoma after outpatient surgery for a skin lesion on her back, she told her mother, “All I want to do when I get well is sing and travel around with my music.” Her last performance in public was one that all who were present will surely never be able to forget – the one where she sang What a Wonderful World for the last time. Shortly before she passed away, her brother Danny 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.

Ever since her passing, the Cassidy family has carefully guarded the wonderful works of art she left behind in the house so full of her paintings and drawings. Many of her pieces have family, and therefore very personal, connections. Only The Boy in the Nest was ever reproduced, and in 2002 her mother donated a necklace that Eva had made to the BBC Children in Need auction.

I was very moved to read that another wonderful young singer, namely Katie Melua, always closes her own live performances with a rendering of Eva Cassidy’s Anniversary Song, and that one of her self-penned numbers (Faraway Voice) was written as a tribute to Eva.

Well, by the time I’d listened to all four of Eva’s albums in my collection – Wonderful World, Songbird, Time After Time and American Tune – I’m happy to report I’d managed to complete to my satisfaction ONE single perfect yellow rose (surrounded by fairly recognisable green leaves) which I can’t wait to take with me to NEXT Saturday’s art class!

Till next time: remember always to Stop and Smell the Roses as you proceed through life. And don’t forget to add Eva Cassidy to YOUR music collection if you haven’t done so already! - Bev Pulé




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart