Book reviews

The US American singer Eva Cassidy was avoiding the limelight, never been comfortable with live performances, and enjoyed working in the studio. Eva was shy, introverted, extremely self-critical, melancholic and troubled all of her life: I don’t need to be famous, she said, and little wonder she never achieved any fame during her short lifetime. Eva’s grandfather Karl came from the German spa town Bad Kreuznach, where his daughter met an American soldier (whose second cousin, actor Henry Gibson played the Nazi chief in The Blues Brothers). Eva Cassidy was born in 1963 in Washington DC. For the authorised biography ‘Eva Cassidy: Songbird’ the family lawyer assisted in arranging all the interviews. The book was designed to promote a positive image of Eva, essentially little more than a PR exercise. ‘Behind The Rainbow’ though claims to be an investigating and enlightening biography, and sure it is. Dutch journalist Johan Bakker took to the task, interviewed Eva’s friends, colleagues and family and evaluates Eva’s brief performing career and her posthumous fame. The story behind the voice – a touching account not only for Eva Cassidy aficionados!

Folk-World (Home of European Music)

Johan Bakker does an excellent job of bringing Eva Cassidy, to the front of the stage where she belongs. The scenes that helped shape this extraordinary singer are presented in vivid detail, from a first performance where she knocks over a microphone to her last where she breaks the hearts of her devoted fans. With photos and song details not available anywhere else this book is a must for those who have listened to “how the angels must sing in heaven”. The book is not long – less than two-hundred pages as was her life – 33 years. It’s not quantity but quality that counts in all things.

Randall Peterson –

Bakker navigates cleverly between the quarrelling family, former bandmembers and accompanists and he presents a pleasantly readable, chronologically built-up work that expresses the origin (parents) and course of Cassidy’s conceited, creative (she drew, painted and produced strings of beads), introvert and perfectionist (like Nick Drake), self-respectless, (fear of commitment, depressions), humorous, but spiritual nature that was never inclined to compromises and her singing career that elapsed haltingly very well. (NBD | Biblion, december 2012) 

J. Hodenius – NBD | Biblion

Dutch journalist Johan Bakker tells this extraordinary story in a  compelling way. He sketches the delicacies he met when he approached those involved, but he also writes extensively about the life and the work of this exceptional singer. Because of Cassidy’s early death, the lack of understanding she met and the fact that the surviving relatives and bandmembers came up against each other as soon as the large amounts of money poured in, this has become a saddening tale. (Revolver’s Lust For Life January / February 2013)  

Robert Haagsma – Revolver’s Lust for Life

Johan Bakker has written an extraordinarily poignant biography. He presents his research in an excellent style and he interprets those he interviewed, and who knew Eva Cassidy, as people of flesh and blood: with affection but with an eye for their faults as well. That he admires Eva Cassidy is obvious. That he maintains his journalistic independence proves his craftsmanship. Both components make sure that you read through this biography with bated breath and with an occasional lump in your throat. Highly recommended!
Eric Palmen – Biografieportaal

Behind The Rainbow, Johan Bakker’s probing biography of Eva Cassidy, last night picked up the People’s Book Prize for non-fiction at a ceremony in the City of London. Helen Donlon, PR for the book’s publishers Omnibus Press, received the award from best-selling author, Frederick Forsyth.

Unlike other book prizes where winners are chosen by literary critics, The People’s Book Prize is awarded by a cross-section poll of readers.

“It’s nice to be recognised in this way,” said Omnibus senior editor Chris Charlesworth, “because rock and pop biographies tend to be ignored at awards gatherings in favour of what the judges consider to be more serious subjects.

“Eva Cassidy’s story is particularly poignant – the fact that she became so famous after she had died is tragic really – and I knew it would make for a moving book. Johan Bakker, the author, did a great job, especially as he’s a Dutchman and English wasn’t his first language.”

Bakker interviewed Cassidy’s friends, colleagues and family to uncover the details of her life and discover the person behind this tragic tale of short-lived musical excellence. The resulting book is a poignant exploration of her artistry, idealism and disillusionment with music as an industry.

Greg Johnson –

‘An admirable achievement,’ concludes Tjerk Lammers in Revolver’s Lust For Life Magazine (May 2012) 

Revolver’s Lust For Life Magazine

All that mattered to Eva was music. It was her faith, and it included gospel music and Psalm 23. Fifteen years after her death the pastures are lush in various ways. Johan Bakker wrote her biography with moving thoroughness (March 23rd 2012).

Herman Veenhof – Nederlands Dagblad

“Great book, about a great singer”

 “Johan’s book is fascinating like Eva’s voice”

“Fantastically written – a real insight into Eva’s all too short life. A must read”

“A great read about an artist who died far too young”

Readers who voted Behind the Rainbow for the People’s Book Prize

“Loved the Eva biography. Thoroughly written and researched and a must for any Eva fan out there. Brilliant.
Buy it!”

Brian Langtry, author of the musical Over the Rainbow