Friday, July 14, 2006

Who was Eva Cassidy?

Toward the end of July 1996, Eva Cassidy started showing up for gigs with a cane. Hip pain, she said. She'd been doing murals for three days. Must have pulled something.
The pain didn't stop. X-rays. The hip was fractured. Hip replacement surgery was set for Aug. 21. A precautionary X-ray before the operation found cancer in a lung. Tests at Johns Hopkins then found that her bones were filled with cancer.
All of a sudden, she was being told that she had three months to live. She started chemotherapy immediately, though it seemed little more than rage against the storm of sickness.

By mid-October, many in Washington's music community were aware of Cassidy's illness, though few knew its severity. Because she had no insurance, a benefit was scheduled at the Bayou, with dozens of bands and individual musicians volunteering their services.
"Eva cared enough about it to try to get herself pumped up to get there," Dale says. Effects of the still-spreading cancer and the harsh side effects of chemotherapy had made Cassidy so ill that she decided to forgo chemo on the two days before the show. When she arrived at the club -- moving slowly with a walker, a sprightly beret masking the loss of hair -- Cassidy looked frail but golden.
"Eva had such a sparkle that night -- she said, `This is like my big birthday party.' It may have been the one time in her life that she came to terms with the idea that people really do like her and think that she's a terrific talent. It filled her to know people appreciated and loved her."
Late that evening, Cassidy slowly moved down the Bayou stage steps with her walker and approached the microphone. Typically, she first thanked everyone. And then, with a fragile beauty that belied her pain, she sang "What a Wonderful World," a vision of moments and places and people that will never again seem quite as wonderful as they were that night.
Eva Cassidy's eyes may have been the only dry ones in the Bayou at that moment.
"I think that was the best day she had after she got real sick," Biondo says. "But she came home and threw up that night, she was in a lot of pain. The arm that she used to strum her guitar had cancer in it . . . "
Hours later, Cassidy was back at Johns Hopkins for chemo.

Eva's young life was cut short on November 2, 1996
* * * * *
It seems we didn't have her long - but she was an exceptional talent and a special spirit. With exemplary courage.


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