This mournful minor-key melody was written by the French-Hungarian composer Joseph Kosma for the ballet Le Rendez-vous, performed in Paris at the end of the second world war. The song transcends genre and has been covered hundreds of times in the decades since. The version I want to explore today is Eva Cassidy’s although I also have Bob Dylan’s splendid version from his classic album Shadows in the Night in my music library.
Eva Cassidy has the most astounding female voice I’ve ever heard in contemporary music, yet she tragically passed away without finding commercial success in her lifetime. I find her voice ‘angelic’ and richly soul driven. She died of melanoma in 1996 at the age of 33 and was virtually unknown outside of her native Washington D.C. Fortunately we are blessed to have many live and studio recordings of her songs.
Wikipedia – Two years after her death, Cassidy’s music was brought to the attention of British audiences, when her versions of “Fields of Gold” and “Over the Rainbow” were played by Mike Harding and Terry Wogan on BBC Radio 2. Following the overwhelming response, a camcorder recording of “Over the Rainbow“, taken at Blues Alley in Washington by her friend Bryan McCulley, was shown on BBC Two’s Top of the Pops 2. Shortly afterwards, the compilation album Songbird climbed to the top of the UK Albums Chart, almost three years after its initial release. The chart success in the United Kingdom and Ireland led to increased recognition worldwide. Her posthumously released recordings, including three number-one albums and one number-one single in the UK, have sold more than ten million copies. Her music has also charted within the top 10 in Australia, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
There is a wonderful page at Eva Cassidy’s web site about her connection with Autumn Leaves, which includes the recording process and her Seasonal Affective Disorder and NOT enjoying ‘fall’!:
Eva’s mother, Barbara Cassidy, told the authors of the Songbird biography that “[Eva] had Seasonal Affective Disorder. When it became September, the days got shorter and she said, ‘Mom, I can’t really enjoy fall, as beautiful as it is, because I know winter is coming.’” One can only speculate about what the song “Autumn Leaves” meant to Eva, but perhaps its seasonal melancholy resonated with her own regret about the falling leaves. Or was it a more eternal metaphor? We’ll never know.
Since you went away
The days grow long
And soon I hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all
When autumn leaves start to fall….