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Kasey Cisyk 1953-1998
 


Country : Queens, NY
Profession : Singer
Date of birth : 1953-04-04
Date of death : 1998-03-29
Cause of Death : Breast cancer

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Kasey Cisyk ( <!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:612.0pt 792.0pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:36.0pt; mso-footer-margin:36.0pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> April 4, 1953 - <!-- /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:""; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";} @page Section1 {size:612.0pt 792.0pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:36.0pt; mso-footer-margin:36.0pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} --> March 29, 1998) , an opera-trained singer who never made it to the Met but whose haunting coloratura soprano became one of the world's most listened-to voices, died on March 29 at her home in Manhattan. She was 44 and had been the singing voice of the long-running ''Have You Driven a Ford Lately?'' advertising campaign.

Her family said the cause was breast cancer.

In the capricious world of show business, she never enjoyed splashy success, but in the backwaters of her profession, where most singers, after all, spend their entire careers, Miss Cisyk, a tiny, slender woman with a smile as big as her heart, made her share of waves.

She worked as a backup singer for Carly Simon and Quincy Jones; she dubbed the Oscar-winning title song for the 1977 movie ''You Light Up My Life,'' and in the demanding world of commercial jingles, she was a star, one whose very anonymity was a critical asset.

It allowed her, for example, to amass a list of credits that included such archrivals as ABC, NBC and CBS; McDonald's and Burger King, American and Delta airlines and even Coke and Pepsi.

And for all her long run with Ford, Miss Cisyk also sang in the service of Chevrolet, Cadillac and Toyota.

It was her work for Ford that made her the envy of her colleagues. From the time she became the voice of Ford in 1981 until the campaign was finally retired two months ago, hers was the most ubiquitous voice in the land. In 1989, when the campaign was nearing the midpoint of its 17-year run, an industry record for a corporate soloist, Ford executives estimated that Miss Cisyk had been heard by a cumulative audience of 20 billion.

Maybe not what she had in mind when she was studying opera at the Mannes College of Music in Manhattan, but not at all bad for a Queens-born daughter of a Ukrainian virtuoso who wanted her to play the violin.

Miss Cisyk, whose father maintained a studio on the Lower East Side, learned the instrument when she was 5 (she also studied ballet), and after graduating from the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, she dutifully accepted a violin scholarship to Mannes.

By the time she graduated she had switched to classical voice training, won encouraging praise for roles in student opera productions, and sung ''Rigoletto'' in Ghent on a New York State scholarship in Belgium.

For all her promise, Miss Cisyk, whose father died when she was 17, was drawn away from opera and into the world of jingles by the pressing need to make a living.

She found work singing in clubs in New York, but for a while in the mid-70's she despaired of breaking into the tight-knit world of commercials. For months after she had circulated tapes to advertising agencies she heard nothing.

Then the executives got around to listening to the tapes, and the calls started coming in, slowly at first, but after six months of sporadic work, an entire industry seemed to make the simultaneous discovery that her voice was money in the bank.

Suddenly she was in such demand that a typical day, she later recalled, would begin with a 9 A.M. session for Trans World Airlines, followed by Coca-Cola at 11, Hartz Mountain at 1 P.M., Eastern Airlines at 2, Datsun at 3, L'Eggs at 5, McDonald's at 6, and, after all that, a recording session from 8:30 P.M. to 3 A.M.

By the time Ford came calling in 1981, she had learned to pace herself.

After an early marriage and divorce, she married Edward J. Rakowicz, a recording engineer, had a son, Edward W., now 7, and became as devoted a mother as she had been a dedicated singer.

But even after her cancer was diagnosed in 1992 and she began the long, painful ordeal of therapy, Miss Cisyk, who is also survived by her older sister, Maria, a concert pianist and teacher who lives in Ridgefield, Conn., continued to work, singing her last professional jingle just a few months ago.

She may never have made it to the Met or even had a popular hit record in the United States, but she was not a complete unknown in the world of music.

Miss Cisyk, whose given name was Kvita (Ukrainian for flower), adopted the professional name Kasey from her initials, intending to reserve Kvita for an opera career that never happened. She eventually found a use for it after all.

A woman who cherished her Ukrainian heritage, Miss Cisyk formed her own production company in 1988 and recorded two C.D.'s, one (''Kvita'') of Ukrainian folk songs, the other (''Kvita Two Colors'') of Ukrainian love songs.

Both have been wildly popular among the 100 million far-flung Ukrainian expatriates and in Ukraine, where the woman who worked in the backwaters of American show business was regarded as a leading performerand is very much a household name.

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