It is with sad news of the death of Little Eva last weekend at the age of 59. She passed away after a long illness. Little Eva was born Eva Boyd.
Eva Narcissus Boyd (June 29, 1943 – April 10, 2003), known by the stage name of Little Eva, was an American pop singer. Although some sources claim that her stage name was inspired by a character from the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, she stated in an interview that she was named after her aunt, which prompted her family to call her "Little Eva."
Born in Belhaven, North Carolina, she moved to the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York, at a young age. As a teenager, she worked as a maid and earned extra money as a babysitter for songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin. It is often claimed that Goffin and King were amused by Boyd's particular dancing style, so they wrote "The Loco-Motion" for her and had her record it as a demo (the record was intended for Dee Dee Sharp).
However, as King said in an interview with NPR and in her "One to One" concert video, they knew she could sing when they met her, and it would be just a matter of time before they would have her record songs they wrote, the most successful being "The Loco-Motion."
Music producer Don Kirshner of Dimension Records was impressed by the song and Boyd's voice and had it released. The song reached #1 in the United States in 1962. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. After the success of "The Loco-Motion," Boyd was stereotyped as a dance-craze singer and was given limited material.
The same year, Goffin and King wrote "He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)" (performed by the Crystals) after discovering that Boyd was being regularly beaten by her boyfriend. When they inquired why she tolerated such treatment, Eva replied without batting an eyelid that her boyfriend's actions were motivated by his love for her.
Phil Spector's arrangement of the song was ominous and ambiguous.
It was a brutal song, as any attempt to justify such violence must be, and Spector's arrangement only amplified its savagery, framing Barbara Alston's lone vocal amid a sea of caustic strings and funereal drums, while the backing vocals almost trilled their own belief that the boy had done nothing wrong. In more ironic hands (and a more understanding age), 'He Hit Me' might have passed at least as satire. But Spector showed no sign of appreciating that, nor did he feel any need to. No less than the song's writers, he was not preaching, he was merely documenting.
Boyd's other single recordings were "Keep Your Hands Off My Baby," "Let's Turkey Trot," and a remake of the Bing Crosby standard "Swinging on a Star," recorded with Big Dee Irwin (though Boyd was not credited on the label). Boyd also recorded the song "Makin' With the Magilla" for an episode of the 1964 Hanna-Barbera cartoon series The Magilla Gorilla Show.
In 1963, American Bandstand signed her with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars national U.S. tour and she was set to perform for the tour's 15th show scheduled for the night of November 22, 1963 at the Memorial Auditorium in Dallas, Texas when suddenly the Friday evening event was cancelled moments after U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while touring Dallas in an open car caravan.
She continued to tour and record throughout the sixties, but her commercial potential plummeted after 1964. She retired from the music industry in 1971. She never owned the rights to her recordings. Although the prevailing rumor in the 1970s was that she had received only $50 for "The Loco-Motion," it seems $50 was actually her weekly salary at the time she made her records (an increase of $15 from what Goffin and King had been paying her as nanny). Penniless, she returned with her three young children to North Carolina, where they lived in obscurity