Eva Cassidy: “Time After Time”

Singer Eva Cassidy was born in Washington, D.C. on February 2, 1963. She began singing at an early age, and eventually garnered attention in her hometown.

Many came to admire her jazz and blues work.  But during Cassidy’s lifetime, her fame was largely limited to the DC area. While she was singing, she also worked at Behnke Nursery in Maryland doing greenhouse work between 1981 and 1995. In 1992, she released an album of duets with Chuck Brown, The Other Side. But on November 2, 1996, at the age of 33, Cassidy died from melanoma.

Several months before she died, she released a live album, Live at Blues Alley. The album provided Cassidy with more fans, and it began to receive wider attention after her death. Additional posthumous albums added to Cassidy’s legacy. Artists such as Paul McCartney became fans, and a 2001 Nightline episode about Cassidy became one of the most popular segments ever on the show.

Today, through the wonders of the Internet, many more music fans are familiar with Cassidy’s beautiful voice. Unfortunately, she never knew how much she would be appreciated. But fortunately for us, we have her music, as well as some camcorder video from a performance at Blues Alley in D.C. Check out Eva Cassidy singing Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.”

What is your favorite Eva Cassidy recording? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Time After Time: From Alt-Rock American Idol to Miles Davis

    This week on American Idol, Colton Dixon did a good job covering Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” from She’s So Unusual (1983).

    After he sang, he graciously noted that he did not deserve all the credit for his reinterpretation because he took much of it from the band Quietdrive. If you’re not familiar with the group, the band is an alt-rock group from Minneapolis that formed in 2002 and has released several albums. Here is their interpretation of “Time After Time,” which was in the soundtrack for the 2006 film, John Tucker Must Die.

    “Time After Time” is one of those songs that seems like it has been around forever and lends itself well to covers. I suspect most people are like me and prefer Lauper’s original above all others. I was fortunate to see her perform the song in a small club in Cleveland before “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” took her to superstar status. While she will always be most associated with “Girls,” it is “Time After Time” that probably will always be covered by other artists. Some of the versions of the song are by Eva Cassidy, Matchbox Twenty, and Sarah Mclachlan. One of my favorite interpretations is by Miles Davis.

    “Time After Time” is timeless.

    What is your favorite version of “Time After Time”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    First Day of Autumn: Eva Cassidy & “Autumn Leaves”

    Today, fall begins here in the Northern Hemisphere when the autumnal equinox occurs. The word “equinox” comes from the Latin word for “equal night,” because the night and day today are equal in length as we go toward winter and the days shorten. One sad reminder of summer’s end is that here in the Northeast U.S., I have probably eaten my last good peach, sweet corn on the cob, and flavorful red tomato for the year.

    But, as we move on, we can look forward to fresh flavorful crisp apples and everything pumpkin. And of course, there are those beautiful autumn leaves and some beautiful music of autumn. Speaking of which, below is Eva Cassidy’s recording of the classic “Autumn Leaves,” which was originally a French song with music by Joseph Kosma. English lyrics were added by Johnny Mercer.

    Eva Cassidy grew up in Maryland and was well known in the Washington, D.C. area for her outstanding interpretations of music ranging from folk to blues to jazz. She died at the young age of 33 from melanoma, but her fame has continued to grow since her death. Awhile ago, there even were rumors that a movie would be made about her life.

    For now, check out her Live at Blues Alley CD, and watch the video below of Cassidy singing “Autumn Leaves” at the Blues Alley jazz club in Georgetown, DC, on January 3, 1996. And think of the end of the summer and the loss of a great artist.

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    American Tune

    Happy Fourth of July weekend for our readers in the U.S. In a recent post, we considered Willie Nelson’s recording of “Graceland” on his album, Across the Borderline (1993). That CD also featured another classic song written by Paul Simon, “American Tune.” The beautiful music in the song, though, was not original to Simon.

    The music we know from “American Tune” appears in the chorale from “St. Matthew Passion,” BWV 244, written by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) about the crucifixion of Christ. You may hear “American Tune” in that composition in No. 21 (Chorale – “Acknowledge Me My Keeper”), No. 23 (Chorale – “Near Thee I Would Be Staying,” and No. 53 (Chorale – “Wha’ever may vex or grieve thee”). But Bach did not create the theme.

    Bach’s composition reworked “Mein Gmüth ist mir verwirret,” composed by Hans Hassler (1564-1612), a German composer who wrote the tune around a century before Bach was born. Hassler’s song was a secular love song known in English as “My Heart is Distracted by a Gentle Maid.” Hymnist Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676) also borrowed Hassler’s tune in one of his compositions. We might call Hassler the “Father of Recycling.” Through Gerhardt and Bach, Hassler’s love song became a religious hymn (“O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,/ Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown.”). Here’s the Bach version:

    Paul Simon took the beautiful music and transformed it with new meaning in “American Tune,” which appeared on There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (1973), released as Simon’s second album after his breakup with Art Garfunkel and as America was tangled in Viet Nam and Watergate. As columnist Anne Hill explained, the song “captures perfectly all the complexity of an idealism that died but still lives; the bitter disappointment and deeper hope which are intertwined in the soul of this country.” The lyrics are vague enough to allow for various interpretations, but the music conveys the melancholy of the song while still maintaining the beauty.

    But it’s all right, it’s all right;
    You can’t be forever blessed.
    Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day;
    And I’m trying to get some rest;
    That’s all I’m trying to get some rest.

    Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel performed Simon’s song, “American Tune,” at their famous free concert in Central Park on September 19, 1981. The performance appears on the CD, Concert in Central Park.

    Here is Willie Nelson and Simon performing “American Tune” from Nelson’s CD, Across the Borderline. On the album version, Paul Simon produced the recording and backed up Nelson. Check it out below (YouTube also has a live version of the song performed by Nelson and Simon.)

    Eva Cassidy does a beautiful version of the song too. Among others, Peter, Paul and Mary recorded a folk song, “Because All Men Are Brothers,” which was written by Tom Glazer and is based upon the same Bach music. The song’s lyrics include: “My brother’s fears are my fears, yellow, white, or brown; / My brother’s tears are my tears, the whole wide world around.”

    Thus, Hassler’s tune written in 1601 has functioned as a song of brotherhood, a love song, a hymn of faith, and an American tune about dreams surviving a time of lost innocence. That’s a pretty good record, and a nice theme for Independence Day.

    Photo of flag and barn via woodleywonderworks.

    What do you think “American Tune” means? Which version of the music do you prefer? Leave a comment.

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