Little Eva, born Eva Narcissus Boyd, worked as a nanny for legendary songwriter Carole King. King paid her $15 dollars a week for her services. Amused by the way she danced, King wrote a song inspired by Eva called “The Loco-Motion” and asked her to record it as a demo. Although King intended the song for Dee Dee Sharp who had a big hit with the dance-crazy song “Mashed Potato Time,” she loved Eva’s version and it was released to radio. The rumor is that Eva was paid $50 for her work and was not offered a cut of the royalties in her contract. The song shot to number 1, sold over a million copies and went gold.
Next time Carole King wrote a song inspired by her babysitter, it was for darker reasons. King found out that Little Eva’s boyfriend was physically abusive. She asked why Eva put up with it, and was told that by beating her, he was showing her that he loved her. This heartbreaking statement inspired King to write ”He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss),” later recorded by The Crystals.
Little Eva’s career didn’t survive past the dance-craze years of the early ’60s. A single mother of three, she packed the family up and moved to South Carolina where she worked menial jobs and collected welfare. Penniless, she passed away from cervical cancer at age 59 and was laid to rest in an unmarked gravesite. The site has since been restored and now a stone engraved with the image of a steam locomotive reads “Singing with the Angels.”
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