Eva used to sing this beautiful song at weddings, beginning with that of her friend Celia Murphy. Celia remembers, “I asked Eva if she would sing at our wedding, and she said she would be ‘honored.’ She asked me what I wanted her to sing, and I said I trusted her judgment. She later brought a tape over to to the house, and she played me a recording of her singing ‘You Take My Breath Away.’ It was slightly emotional for me. Eva said ‘So, you like it?’ I said yes, I did like it! Later on I played the tape for Winston [Celia’s fiance, now her husband], and he got a little emotional, so we knew it was the right song. Originally Chris was going to play with her but he chickened out at the last minute, so it was just Eva and her guitar. It was May 9th, 1992. She was at the altar singing, it was almost like she was singing just to us, the wedding party. When she was singing, Winston got emotional, so I had to give him my hanky!” Winston adds, “It just made the service, I think. There was not a dry eye in the house. It was breathtakingly beautiful, it was fantastic.”
Eva envisioned “You Take My Breath Away” as a music video, according to Chris Biondo. “She didn’t want to be seen in the video, she wanted it to be images. She was thinking clouds, sunbeams cutting through the clouds, the song as the overwhelming spirituality of nature, that is what she was getting from that song. She thought that it was more of a spiritual song than a man-woman love thing, she thought that when the lyrics say ‘I feel your eyes on me,’ that there’d be a break in the clouds, and the sun would come through the clouds, and you see rays, like a creator looking down on earth, she wanted that image to be on the video.”
Keith Grimes says this song is his favorite thing on the album. “In certain performances, Eva has a particular quality of soulfulness and delicacy that happens, an ineffable quality, it’s a real fragile thing — this is one of those, this has that going for it in a big way.”
At least three versions exist of Eva singing “You Take My Breath Away.” The rendition on AMERICAN TUNE is from one of Keith’s “buried treasure” rehearsal tapes. For the BEST OF EVA CASSIDY album, Lenny Williams wrote a new accompaniment for piano, bass, and string quartet, similar to the “Anniversary Song” enhancement.
Claire Hamill, the singer-songwriter from England who wrote “You Take My Breath Away,” tells us how she came to write the song:
‘In 1972, at the age of 17, I toured America for the first time to promote my first album “One House Left Standing”. During a break in the tour I visited a girl called Kay Vereen who lived in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. She introduced me to a lovely young man called Mike Marsh, whose parents owned a surf shop. I was enchanted by the whole surf scene, as it was a million miles away from my early life in the industrial North East of England. Mike and I fell in love, and I wrote many songs for him which feature on my second album “October.” Most of the songs that I wrote at that time were written on my return to rainy London, where the busy streets soon had me dreaming of the warm Carolina beaches and Mike.
I was 19 when I wrote “You Take My Breath Away”. We corresponded for four years as we struggled to keep our transatlantic relationship alive, but inevitably the great distance came between us and it fizzled out. I think of the song as a tender declaration of love to someone I thought the world of.
“The first time I heard Eva sing I became a fan. When I heard her sing my song…, can you imagine how I felt, I was completely overwhelmed. so many different emotions flooded through me, the first was elation at the sheer beauty of her rendition quickly followed by the poignancy of the fact that I would never be able to tell her how fantastic it is.’
Claire Hamill’s friend and webmaster, Christine Waters, sent me a scan of an article by Barry Dix in the Feltham Leader. Here are a few extracts: ‘Musician Claire Hamill discovered one of her songs had helped take a CD to the top of the album charts on Sunday afternoon — while she was attending a garden party in Feltham. …”I’m flabbergasted,” said Claire, who was “top of the bill” at the back garden concert staged by Christine and Charlie Waters, and featuring musicians from local folk clubs. Singer-songwriter Claire is no stranger to fame. In the early seventies, still in her teens, she was elevated to stardom, recording several successful albums, topping the bill at the Royal Festival Hall, and being featured on the cover of Melody Maker.Claire said, “I was visiting an Eva Cassidy web site a while ago and noticed she had recorded a song called ‘You Take My Breath Away.’ I wondered if it was mine of the same name, and contacted the record company. They confirmed it was but said they had no plans to release it. Then a few months ago they got in contact again and said it would be on the new album…. It’s a real thrill. I’m so excited about it.”
Waters told me, “She deserves the success. She’s been gigging around for years. She’s a very talented performer and hopefully this will be a big boost for her career.”‘
Steve Massam of the BBC interviewed Claire Hamill in the fall of 2003. He asked her if she was making a lot of money from having her song on a hit album, and Claire replied, “Well, considering what I’ve been living on, it’s a fortune to me, I hope I make some money, I certainly need it, in case anybody is wondering, but really the main thing for me is the beauty of the rendition, and that she loved my song. Not only that, but now I can ring people up and say ‘Eva Cassidy loved my song…I am a good songwriter’ and hopefully I’ll be able to write for other people…. It’s just the biggest thing that’s happened to me, really. It’s going to open so many doors.”