My fully conscious introduction to Eva Cassidy was via music selected for the film, “Love Actually.”
Let me back up. Christine McVie, née Perfect, has been on my radar from her days with a band called Chicken Shack, later segueing into her long career with Fleetwood Mac. She’s not as heralded as Stevie Nicks in terms of songwriting output, but her catalog of original songs stacks up well against Nicks and other pop songwriting success stories. “Songbird” was one of four McVie songs on 1977’s Rumours album (along with “Don’t Stop,” “You Make Loving Fun,” and “Oh Daddy”). And Eva Cassidy made it a habit of finding songs uniquely suited for her gifted voice. Cassidy’s original recording of “Songbird” and its carefully (and thoughtfully) updated version heard in the 2000 film was consistent with most of her recorded works; while it wasn’t a Cassidy composition, she made the song her own – as the best vocalists and musicians do.
It’s hard to believe that Eva Cassidy has been dead for 20 years. The film “Love Actually,” and a British love affair with Cassidy that BBC Radio 2 started by playing her version of “Over The Rainbow” lifted her profile considerably. Happily, most of Cassidy’s recorded works are now available, and there’s even a documentary (produced in England) about her startling beautiful voice and tragically short public career. But like Vincent Van Gogh, who sold but one painting while he was alive, Cassidy’s recordings weren’t widely discovered during her life by a vast audience clamoring for more. Absent commercial success, there was no organic marketplace providing the impetus for more recordings, but Eva Cassidy has found an audience today. With her death in 1996 at age 33, one can’t help but wonder where producers or arrangers would have taken her with more time.
Pardon the pun, but the combination of Cassidy’s voice and McVie’s song was, well, perfect.