Bruce Von Stiers
I recently made contact with Elana Rhodes Byrd. I was doing this because of wanting to review some music of her husband’s. Elana let me know that not only was it possible to check out material from her husband, but she thought I might be interested in something else as well. Elana had been the co-author of a book about singer Eva Cassidy. I had Elana send me the book. I read it and was amazed at the life of Eva Cassidy and how she impacted so many people even after her death. The title of the book is Songbird. The book has a subtitle of Eva Cassidy: Her Story By Those Who Knew Her. In addition to Elana, the other authors were Rob Burley and Jonathan Maitland. It was published by Gotham Books.
Eva was a very talented singer. She was based in and around the Washington D.C. area. Eva died at the age of 33 in 1996. The book is her life story told by her friends and family.
Songbird was of special interest to me. Not only have I become a fan of Eva’s music, I lost a younger sister three years ago. My sister Bettie died of complications due to diabetes. She was only 38 years old upon her death. Like Eva, Bettie’s life ended far too soon.
The book takes you from Eva’s birth in Washington in 1963 to her death on November 2, 1996. There are remembrances from Eva’s brother and her two sisters. Dan is a violinist now living in Iceland. The two sisters are Anette and Margret. Hugh and Barbara Cassidy, Eva’s parent’s, also gave facts and observations to the authors for the book. It was her parents who authorized this book. Eva’s friends also chimed in with tidbits about her life.
Songbird is set up in an interview fashion. Each person who talks about Eva is identified by name. The book was initially released in England. Burley and Matiland work for the BBC and came over to do a program on Eva. What they ended up with is a lot more. Eland Rhodes Byrd’s material was added to the U.S. release of the book.
In Songbird we get to follow Eva from her childhood, up through adolescence and beyond. We learn how bussing made an impact on Eva’s school and social life. We find out about how life wasn’t necessarily easy around the Cassidy home when Eva was young. Her mother had another child before marrying her father. And dad was strong willed to say the least. Hugh became a top seeded bodybuilder while Eva was growing up.
The book is also full of pictures of Eva and the thing in life. Eva was also an artist, so there are pictures of several of her drawings.
Songbird has the most complete information about Eva Cassidy and her life. That is because the authors retrieved information from the people who knew Eva the best, her family and friends.
If you are a fan of Eva Cassidy’s then Songbird is a “must have.” For those who didn’t know anything about Eva and her music, maybe its time to find out.
You can find a copy of Songbird at your local bookseller. It is also available online at places like Amazon.
© 2004 Bruce E Von Stiers