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Little Eva Narcissus Boyd was a babysitter for Carole King and Gerry Goffin when the songwriting team was inspired to write "The Loco-Motion," a song based on a dance that Eva would do around the house. Eva also got to sing on their demo, which impressed Don Kirshner enough to release it as it was. One of the greatest girl group hits, "The Loco-Motion" hit number one in 1962; the follow-up, "Keep Your Hands Off My Baby," was also written by Goffin-King. Almost as good as her debut, it reached the Top 20, and was even covered by the Beatles on-stage in their early days (though they never recorded it in the studio). Unfortunately, Eva was then pigeonholed as a dance-craze singer and given inferior material. She never again reached the soulful heights of her first two singles; "Let's Turkey Trot" (1963) was her only other Top 20 hit, although she continued working until October 2001. She succumbed to cervical cancer in April of 2003.
Eva Narcissus Boyd (June 29, 1943 – April 10, 2003), known by the stage name of Little Eva (after a character from Uncle Tom's Cabin), was an American pop singer.
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 individual 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 (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, with apparent sincerity, that her boyfriend's actions were motivated by his love for her.
Phil Spector's arrangement of the song was ominous and ambiguous.
Boyd's other single recordings were "Keep Your Hands Off My Baby", "Some Kinda Wonderful", "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.
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.
Interviewed in 1988 after the success of the Kylie Minogue cover version of "The Loco-Motion", Boyd stated that she did not like the new version; however its then-current popularity allowed her to make a comeback in show business.
She returned to live performing with other artists of her era on the cabaret and oldies circuits. She also occasionally recorded new songs.
The only existing footage of Little Eva performing "Loco-Motion" is a small clip from the ABC sixties live show Shindig! where she sang a short version of the clip along with the famous dance steps. She also sang "Let's Turkey Trot" and The Exciters song "I Want You to Be My Boy" in the same episode. This TV show was one of her final performances until 1988, when she began performing in concerts with Bobby Vee and other singers. In a 1991 Richard Nader concert, she performed "Loco-Motion" and "Keep Your Hands Off My Baby". The concert was partially documented on videotape, albeit of marginal quality.
Eva's eldest daughter, Dorothea, died April 6th, 2013, from heart failure.
She continued performing until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in October 2001. She died 18 months later in Kinston, North Carolina, aged 59, and is buried in a small cemetery in Belhaven, North Carolina. Her gravesite was sparsely marked until July 2008, when a report by WRAL-TV of Raleigh, North Carolina highlighted deteriorating conditions at the cemetery and efforts by the city of Belhaven to have it restored. A simple white cross had marked the site until a new gravestone was unveiled in November of that year. Her new grey gravestone has the image of a steam locomotive prominently engraved on the front and the epitaph reads: "Singing with the Angels".