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Call it the $491,249 bootleg tape.
A Catonsville, Md., resident has put a live recording of Eva Cassidy up for sale on eBay UK. It has a Buy It Now price of 250,000 British pounds. Bidding ends tomorrow around 11:30 EST.
In the sales pitch on the auction site, seller Niki Lee writes that while searching through her garage years ago, she found the unmarked cassette among the contents of a “moldy, forgotten briefcase.” Turns out it came from a live Cassidy performance at the shortlived Alexandria club Fleetwoods in the “early 1990s.”
The club’s owner, Fleetwood Mac’s Mick Fleetwood, was Cassidy’s drummer for this show.
Cassidy’s story is the stuff of movies. She died of cancer in 1996, before anybody but a few DC area folks cared who she was. She was 33 years old. (One sign of her local renown: I met my wife at a 1995 Eva Cassidy show at Shootz, a Bethesda pool hall, where the cover was $3, which also you got a $3 pool credit.)
Three years after her death, while she was all but forgotten in her hometown, BBC started playing Cassidy’s material, and she became a phenomenon. Her CDs began selling in the millions. Cassidy’s version of “Over the Rainbow,” recorded in 1996 at Blues Alley before a so-so crowd, became one of the most requested songs in the history of “Top of the Pops.” (Former City Paper critic Joel Siegel was one of many folks from around here who took credit for getting Cassidy’s music across the pond.)
A Nightline report on Eva-mania in Europe became one of the biggest show’s in that program’s history, and was aired three times to satisfy the demand. Norah Jones is among those who owe her career to music industry types trying to find a living, breathing Eva Cassidy.
There was a very limited amount of material available for exploitation when Cassidy became a star, and she wasn’t around to provide any more.
So, as Niki Lee knows, the discovery of a new concert recording could make somebody a lot of money. Somebody like her.
Lee says on the auction page that she was given the tape by Cassidy. She doesn’t mention that she used to be married to Lenny Williams, Cassidy’s longtime pianist.
Lee does admit, however, that she doesn’t own the rights to Cassidy’s music. From eBay UK:
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: THIS IS A COLLECTORS ITEM ONLY. THESE RECORDINGS CANNOT BE REPRODUCED IN ANY WAY WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF BLIX STREET RECORDS — OWNER OF EVA CASSIDY’S MUSICAL COPYRIGHTS….THIS HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED AS MY OWN PERSONAL PROPERTY AND I, UNDER COPYRIGHT LAW, HAVE THE RIGHT TO SELL THIS PROPERTY TO ANOTHER INDIVIDUAL OR INDIVIDUALS.
In other words, should you pay Lee nearly a half-million dollars, you only get to listen to the tape.
As Cassidy sang so sweetly, What a wonderful world…
UPDATE, 6/5: Ed: Lee called in this morning to dispute that the tape is a “bootleg”: “It’s illegal to sell a bootleg tape on ebay and this tape is not a bootleg tape,” she says. “It is a one shot deal, only tape that exists, it came right from the soundboard of a club, and I found it. And I don’t understand why no one’s jumping for joy that I found it.”