Eva Cassidy Reborn?

As a longtime fans of the late, great Eva Cassidy my wife and I had frequently had the same thought.  How would Eva have fared as a contestant on American Idol?

This season, we agreed that the question may finally have been answered in the form of the year’s most compelling performer, Crystal Bowersox.

Eva Cassidy, the late great "Songbird"

If you have been exposed to the complete portfolio of music from Eva Cassidy, you know that she was one of our most talented and versatile artists. 

Practically unknown during her lifetime and only discovered by the mainstream through a series of posthumous releases of earlier recordings, she was equally at home in several genres and could pull off everything from blues, to gospel, to jazz, to pop. 

While most singers trying to cover “Over the Rainbow” pale in comparison to Judy Garland, listening to this Eva Cassidy version quickly makes you realize that she may have actually done the impossible … she may have improved on the classic.   Hey … If the note she hits around the 3:35 mark on the recording doesn’t have a strong emotional impact on you, check your batteries.  You may be due for a recharge.



And goodness knows it is hard to improve on Aretha, but you have to be in total awe at the ease with which she handles this live performance of “Chain  of Fools”


I have no doubt that Eva Cassidy would have ruled American Idol. 

All season long, Crystal Bowersox appeared to be Eva Cassidy reincarnate. 

Her three-song performance in the finals was practically flawless as she emulated Janis Joplin on “Me & Bobby McGee” and was spot-on with her version of “Black Velvet” by Alannah Miles, before concluding with a riveting version of  “Up the  Mountain” by Patty Griffin. 

Crystal Bowersox

In short, she was practically perfect in every way, just like Eva Cassidy would have been if she had been given the chance.

But, to our amazement Crystal didn’t win.  She came in second to the personable and popular Lee Dewyze … extremely talented, but by comparison, a rather mundane performer whose victory once again exposed the serious flaw in the selection process of American Idol.  More times than not the system has allowed the voting public to choose the winner based more on emotion than on talent and ability.

So maybe Eva Cassidy would not have ruled American Idol after all. 

But, she would have dominated that stage for the entire season and in the end, if she wasn’t chosen by the voters, we would have been left scratching our heads and saying … WOW!  How did THAT happen??


About Judson

Late bloomer ... aspiring writer and musician.
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14 Responses to Eva Cassidy Reborn?

  1. Cindy Holman says:

    I totally agree! Loved Eva Cassidy! Wow – what an amazing voice! You are right – Crystal DOES remind me of Eva!!

    • I just discovered Eva Cassidy two days ago…thanks so much to the YouTube phenomenon!…..
      I had the same thought….that Crystal B. reminded me a bit of Eva. Not AS amazing, but she was the current singer who came to my mind and in some ways reminds me of Eva. So…wanting to see if there had been any comparison made, I typed in “Crystal Bowersox & Eva Cassidy”…& this blog popped up! Wow! I wonder if Crystal has heard of the amazing Eva Cassidy? ! She should!

  2. Robin Chalkley says:

    I’ve had the “What would Eva have done on American Idol” thought myself, but I don’t quite see the comparison with Crystal. I mean, I see it, but I don’t think of them as the same. I’ve never heard anyone phrase a song as well as Eva, and though Crystal does an excellent job of making a song her own, Eva made you hear the song as if you’d never really heard it before. Autumn Leaves and Fields of Gold are two examples. Being the best singer isn’t the guarantee for winning AI, either — witness Melinda Doolittle finishing in 3rd place a couple of years ago.

  3. Excellent points. I totally agree that they’re not the same. Crystal comes as close as any AI contestant has, but somehow, I can’t see Crystal singing “Over the Rainbow” with the unique and tender touch that Eva gave it.

  4. Scott P says:

    I’ve taken the liberty of posting a link to your writing on Eva to the discussion group I moderate (see link). Thanks for the insight you offer. I believe Eva represents one of the best role models this show can showcase and in this respect should have her arrangements and music selected for a “theme” night next season. With judges always asking contestants to deliver more originality especially using emotion that is felt personally by the performer, presenting songs in the context of Eva’s story would (imho) be a winning show. – Warm regards – Scott – Lilburn, Georgia USA

  5. Jennifer says:

    Crystal reminded me of Eva from day one. So many traits in common, although it’s not that Crystal sounds like Eva, because they have completely different voices. This is the first time I ever was excited about the show, simply because of Crystal. I think people would have liked Eva more than Crystal. I heard way too much talk about Crystal’s unconventional appearance and behavior – dreadlocks, her tattoo, her chin piercing, her teeth, being an unwed mother, and her outspoken comments interpreted as arrogance. I honestly think if she had combed out the dreads into blond tresses, removed the piercing, and whitened her teeth she would have won. A lot of people just couldn’t see past those things to ever appreciate her phenomenal talent. On the other hand Eva came across as modest, soft spoken, unpretentious, and beautiful, especially when singing. I think America would have found it a lot easier to fall in love with Eva.

  6. Jennifer —

    Very good points. I wish there was more archival footage of Eva to enjoy. Also wish that we could have seen a softer side of Crystal at some point during the season. It’s hard to tell if Crystal is versatile enough to really compare favorably to Eva on all levels.


  7. Stephen (Toronto) says:

    Does anyone really believe that American Idol (or any of those other shows) sincerely go out looking for the most talented people they can find, and only accept the very best to be on the show. Let’s be honest. No, they mix it up with a few farcical choices according to their belief system as to what constitutes the greatest ratings-generating formula. Everything on TV is a damn formula. I can’t watch the show. If someone spectacular comes along, I will gladly watch them on youtube.

    So as to how Eva Casssidy would have been received on the show, who knows if one of the greatest talents in America would have been picked to go on in the first place? As far as emotion goes, I have never known of a singer that generates the kind of profound reaction in people that Eva does. Take a stroll through the guestbook at evacassidy.org (a volunteer affair run by Eva’s cousin Laura) and see the extraordinary things people in their thousands say about how her music affects them. It’s uncanny, and it’s real. My approach to discovering new talent is to browse youtube, cdbaby, etc…looking for prodigies, unique covers, even remixes (there is tons of creative stuff out there) and then I network on the computer with real people about it. I find it much more rewarding than the contrived environment of these so-called talent search shows.

  8. Stephen —

    The mere fact that the most talented finalist has been voted the winner at best about 20% of the time tells you al lot about the validity of the outcome of of American Idol.

    I agree with you that shows like AI are not necessarily looking for the best (in this case, singer/musician) if only because they eliminate a lot of pretty good individual talent on the show that forces group interaction and choreography.

    Certainly, they also place a premium on quirky behavior in the early rounds and then pretend that they are bothered by the same behavior when an off-beat contestant moves ahead in the competition.

    All-in-all, these shows certainly leave a lot to be desired! Not sure why I watch. Akin to not being able to look away from an wreck on the highway I suppose.


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