Kvitka (or "Kasey") Cisyk (Ukrainian: Квітка Цісик, Kvitka Tsisyk; April 4, 1953 – March 29, 1998) was an American coloratura soprano of Ukrainian ethnicity. Cisyk, a classically-trained opera singer, successfully pursued a career in four different musical genres: popular music, classical opera, Ukrainian folk music and commercial jingles for radio and TV advertisements.
Cisyk recorded the version of "You Light Up My Life" heard in the movie, sang the "Have you driven a Ford lately?" and "You deserve a break today!" jingles and also released two critically acclaimed albums of Ukrainian songs.
Cisyk was the daughter of two Ukrainian immigrants; her given name, Kvitka, is Ukrainian for "flower". Her father, Volodymyr Cisyk, a well known Ukrainian concert violinist and teacher, taught his daughter the violin when she was 5 years old, grooming her for a career as a classical musician.
Cisyk attended the High School of Music & Art in New York City and graduated in 1970. She attended Harpur College, also known as SUNY Binghamton, for one year directly after high school. Her sister taught piano there. In the summer of 1971, she attended a SUNY-sponsored opera program in Ghent, Belgium. She received a violin scholarship to the Mannes College of Music, but had switched to classical voice training by the time of her graduation.
Popular music career
Cisyk's original goal was a career as an opera singer, but her father's death left the family without a source of income. Needing to earn money immediately, Cisyk pursued a career as a session singer in popular music. She drew her professional name (Kasey) from her first and last initials.
Cisyk began singing in clubs, while submitting audition tapes to producers and advertising agencies. She had a successful career as a background singer in popular music, working as a backup singer for Carly Simon and Michael Franks and for artists produced by Quincy Jones.
Commercial jingle career
Cisyk achieved her widest success as a singer of the musical jingles used in TV and radio commercials. Cisyk's recording of the slogan "Have you driven a Ford lately?" was used in Ford commercials from 1981 to 1998; in 1989, Ford executives estimated that Cisyk's recording of that phrase had been heard by 20 billion people.
During a career that lasted more than 20 years, Cisyk's skills were so highly valued that competitors within the same industry sought her services. Cisyk's sang the phrase "You deserve a break today" for McDonalds, but also recorded commercials for Burger King.
In addition to Ford, Cisyk sang for automakers General Motors and Toyota. She recorded spots for the three national television networks in the 1980s (ABC, NBC and CBS), four major airlines (American, Delta, Eastern and TWA), two national retailers Sears and JC Penney and the two most popular soft drinks: Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
According to her New York Times obituary, "a typical day, she later recalled, would begin with a 9 am session for Trans World Airlines, followed by Coca-Cola at 11, Hartz Mountain at 1 pm, 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 pm to 3 am"
Cisyk's work in commercials brought her to the attention of Joe Brooks, who worked as a composer and arranger of jingles. Brooks, who wrote, directed and composed the score for the movie You Light Up My Life chose Cisyk to dub the singing voice of actress Didi Conn.
Cisyk's performance of the song appears on the original soundtrack album, and was released as a single, although she was not listed as the performing artist in the final credits of the film (for which she successfully sued the producers). Her single release of the song reached No. 80 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
The song was also recorded by singer Debby Boone, with Brooks producing and arranging. This recording of "You Light Up My Life", became a No. 1 single on the Billboard chart for ten consecutive weeks. People magazine ran a substantial article about "The real voice behind 'You Light Up My Life" inasmuch the similarity between her and Debby Boone's voice led many to assume the latter had sung the songs in the movie. In a 2013 biographical essay about Cisyk, Cisyk's second husband, Ed Rakowicz wrote, that Brooks "withheld payment ... tried to evade payment by false promises and by asking her to be an incidental actor in his film, implying huge rewards yet to come..." Later, (according to Rakowicz's biographical essay), Brooks made improper advances toward Cisyk, and after being rebuffed, didn't speak directly to her again, and continued to evade payments to her. Rakowicz writes, "[Kasey] retained a lawyer and sued Brooks for the fees she earned for her work on the record and the film but accepted an award of a small sum just to relieve herself of the torment of a prolonged legal battle with Brooks."
Cisyk also recorded lead vocals for the soundtracks of the movies "The One and Only" and "Circle of Two". She also contributed backing vocals to the Carly Simon songs used on the soundtrack for the movie "Working Girl".
As the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants, Cisyk was raised with Ukrainian music, and she is well known in the Ukrainian-speaking world for her two albums of Ukrainian songs. According to Cisyk she recorded these albums because her colleagues often asked her to “show them something Ukrainian, but there were no records worthy of being shown”.
In 1980 she recorded her first album, Kvitka, Songs of Ukraine which won top honors in the 1988 Ukrainian Music Awards.
Her second album, Kvitka, Two Colors, was released in 1989. was dedicated to "the spirit of the Ukrainian soul, whose wings can never be broken." Today, songs from both albums continue to be heard on radio in Ukraine.
Both Songs of Ukraine and Two Colors were family projects. Cisyk's second husband, Ed Rakowicz, a recording engineer, produced them; her first husband, Jack Cortner arranged and conducted them. Her sister Maria Cisyk, a concert pianist and teacher, performed the solo piano selections on the record, and her mother, Ivanna, made sure her Ukrainian pronunciation was perfect.
Death and legacy
Kvitka Cisyk Rakowicz died from breast cancer on March 29, 1998, six days before her 45th birthday. She is survived by her husband, Edward J. Rakowicz and son, Edward W. (born 1991), her sister Maria Cisyk's daughters Lesia Merley Hill and Samantha Merley; her uncle, Wasyl Lew, with his wife, Oksana, and their daughters, Khristina, Olesia, Ruta and Maya Lew.
For the singer’s 60th birthday anniversary Ukrainian Inter TV channel made a documentary film "Kvitka. Single copy voice”. The film authors have investigated the phenomenon of the singer with the help of her relatives and close friends: husband Ed Rakowicz, son Eddie, family from Lviv and the United States, workmates and fans. On April 4, 2013 premieres of the film took place in Kyiv, Lviv, Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Odessa, Lugansk and Chernovtsy. The film was released on Inter TV channel on April 5, 2013.
- Kvitka, Songs of Ukraine 1980
- Kvitka, Two Colors 1989
|Flying Monkey Orchestra||Back in the Pool||1993||Vocals, Choir, Chorus|
|Sadao Watanabe||Earth Step||1994||Vocals (Background)|
|Sesame Street||Sesame Road||1993||Vocals, Voices|
|Carole King||City Streets||1989||Vocals (Background)|
|Various Artists||Working Girl||1988||Vocals (Background)|
|Michael Franks||The Camera Never Lies||1987||Vocals (Background)|
|Neal Fox||A Painting||1977||Vocals (Background)|
|Michael Franks||Skin Dive||1985||Vocals (Background)|
|Michael Franks||Passionfruit||1983||Vocals (Background)|
|Roberta Flack||I'm the One||1982||Vocals, Vocals (Background)|
|Michael Franks||Objects of Desire||1982||Vocals (Background)|
|David Sanborn||Voyeur||1982||Vocals, Vocals (Background)|
|Various Artists||You Light Up My Life||1977||Vocals, Vocals (Background)|
|Michael Johnson||Lifetime Guarantee||1984||Solo, Background vocals|
|Spyro Gyra||Freetime||1981||Backing vocals|
|Small Voices Calling||Sounds of a Better World||2000||Vocals|
- The Myth of Kvitka, The Ukrainian Week (11 April 2013)
- By ROBERT McG. THOMAS JrPublished: April 13, 1998 (1998-04-13). "Kasey Cisyk, Singer, Dies at 44; Made Mark in Commercials - New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2013-04-22.
- Brown, Scott (2003-02-21). "The 'Light' Stuff". EW.com. Retrieved 2013-04-22.
- Kvitka’s Biography by Ed Rakowicz, 2013 Accessed Jan 14, 2014.
- [dead link]
- "Україна Молода :.: Видання | НЬЮЗ–РУМ". Umoloda.kiev.ua. 1997-07-26. Retrieved 2013-04-22.
- New York Times obituary
- Allmusic.com discography
- IMDB.com movie credits
- Review of first album, with music clips from selected songs
- Article about 2008 memorial service in Ukraine
- Article about the numerous single releases of "You Light Up My Life", with Cisyk's release information
- Article about photo session for Ford, with photo
- Los Angeles Times obituary
- Obituary for Kvitka Cisyk