Songs From An Angel
Heaven, I’m in Heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek, Irving Berlin , “Cheek to Cheek” from “Top Hat”, 1935
My wife and I huddled around the crackling MAC last night, tuning into “YouTube” and listening to the delicious tones of the late Eva Cassidy. Putting aside the day’s cares and incessant Swine flu reporting, we were sung to from out of the ether and literally from beyond the grave by Miss Cassidy. I don’t know very much about Eva Cassidy. Then again, twenty four hours ago I knew nothing.
Most of you may know what I did not, that Ms. Cassidy was a popular singer around Washington D.C. in the early 1990s.She was pretty much unknown outside of that area, but had an intense following there. She had the voice of an angel, if it turns out that angels sing soprano, which most of us believe they do. But the amazing thing about Cassidy was her ability to sing in almost any genre. Pop, folk, Jazz, Gospel, there was nothing that she could not do and nothing that she did not do well. Last night we Listened to her sing Berlin, Simon, Lennon/McCarthy and unknown African American spiritual writers. All were done with excellence, several brought tears to my eyes.
In 1996 Cassidy got sick and died from melanoma. She never got to find out the force her music would become. At her final concert before entering the hospital for the last time, her closing number was “ What A Wonderful World”, the quietly optimistic song that we all associate with Louie Armstrong.
“I see skies of blue and clouds of white,
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night,
And I say to myself, what a wonderful world….”
There in her darkest hour, she was able to tell the world of the joys of living a life.
Four years after her death a tape of her rendition of “Over the Rainbow” was played on BBC 2 in England . It got tremendous response, that is to say, the response it deserved. Albums of her work were cobbled together and quickly became enormous hits in Europe, three of them reaching number 1.She became fairly well known in her own country, to everyone except me. My wife had an mp3 collection of her songs. But like many of the best things in life, I had forgotten to listen. I ran across her yesterday on YouTube and for a moment in time she was able to take me away from a crashing economy , a swine flu pandemic and a personal (trivial) illness.
There is so much sadness in the world that in the midst of it we forget everything else. Those who are wisest, like Cassidy, know that while the gloom of night falls each twenty four fours, the sun also rises. That as we mope through the overcast and gray weather we have had around here for the last four days, and are supposed to have for the next seven, a bright sun shines just beyond the clouds waiting to break through. Even with the clouds, the sun is there, warming the earth and maintaining our lives. We are never left without it. Like the sun, joy is also always with us, often hidden, but always ready to break through. Sometimes all it takes is a song.
It is a wonderful world where a woman who has been dead for more than a dozen years can come into a home, lighten the spirit and in “in the prison of his days, teach the free man how to praise”. I’d say “God bless you Eva” but that got taken care of long ago.