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Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega was the first major figure in the bumper crop of female singer/songwriters who rose to prominence during the late '80s and '90s. Her hushed, restrained folk-pop and highly literate lyrics (inspired chiefly by Leonard Cohen, as well as Lou Reed and Bob Dylan) laid the initial musical groundwork for what later became the trademark sound of Lilith Fair (a tour on which she was a regular). Moreover, her left-field hit single "Luka" helped convince record companies that folk-styled singer/songwriters were not a thing of the past after all, paving the way for breakthroughs by Tracy Chapman, Michelle Shocked, Shawn Colvin, Edie Brickell, the Indigo Girls, Sinéad O'Connor, and a host of others throughout the '90s. Vega's early commercial success helped open doors for a wealth of talent, and even if she couldn't sustain the level of popularity she reached in 1987 with "Luka" and the platinum Solitude Standing, she maintained a strong and dedicated cult following. Her association with -- and marriage to -- experimental producer Mitchell Froom during the '90s resulted in two intriguing but uneven albums; however, following their painful divorce, Vega returned in 2001 with her first album in five years, Songs in Red and Gray, which was greeted with her strongest reviews in a decade.

Suzanne Vega was born July 11, 1959, in Santa Monica, California; her parents divorced shortly thereafter, and after her mother (a jazz guitarist) remarried to Puerto Rican novelist Ed Vega, the family moved to Manhattan. A shy and quiet child, Suzanne nonetheless learned to take care of herself growing up in the tough neighborhoods of Spanish Harlem. Her parents often sang folk songs around the house, and when she began playing guitar at age 11, she found herself attracted to the poetry of singer/songwriter music (Dylan, Cohen), and found a refuge from New York's chaos in traditional folk (Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Judy Collins, Joan Baez). At age 14, she made her first attempts at writing songs; however, when she attended the High School for the Performing Arts as a teenager, it was to study dance, not music. She subsequently enrolled at Barnard College as a literature major, and during this time, she began playing at coffee houses and folk festivals on the West Side and near Columbia University; she soon moved up to the Lower East Side/Greenwich Village folk clubs, including the famed Folk City club where Bob Dylan started out. In 1979, Vega attended a Lou Reed concert, and the effect was a revelation: here was an artist chronicling the harsh urban world Vega knew, with the detail and literacy of a folk artist. Vega discovered a new voice and sense of possibility for her original material, and her writing grew rapidly.

Vega graduated from college in 1982 and held down several low-level day jobs while quickly becoming the Greenwich Village folk scene's brightest hope. Record companies were reluctant to take a chance on a singer/songwriter steeped in folk music, however, since they saw little chance of any commercial returns. After three years of rejections, Vega and her managers Ron Fierstein and Steve Addabbo finally convinced A&M (which had turned her down twice) to give her a shot, and she signed a contract in 1983. Former Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye was brought in to co-produce the debut with Addabbo and lend it a smoother, more contemporary flavor.

Titled simply Suzanne Vega, it was released in 1985 to much critical applause. Thanks in part to the single "Marlene on the Wall," the album was a genuine hit in Britain, where it eventually went platinum; while it didn't duplicate that success in America, the album's sales of 200,000 strong still came as a shock to A&M (and Vega). For the 1987 follow-up, Vega overcame writer's block to craft an eclectic batch of new material, as well as drawing upon a backlog of songs that hadn't fit the debut. Again produced by Kaye and Addabbo, Solitude Standing was Vega's finest achievement; the richness and variety of its compositions were complemented by the lusher full-band arrangements and more accessible (albeit less folky) production. The album's lead single, "Luka," was a haunting first-person account of child abuse, whose terse (and fictional) lyrics struck a chord with American radio listeners. As a result, the album was an instant hit on both sides of the Atlantic; it debuted at number two in the U.K. and went gold within three months in the U.S., peaking at number 11 and eventually going platinum. "Luka" hit number three on the American pop charts -- unheard of for a singer/songwriter in the '80s prior to Vega -- and was nominated for three Grammys. As record companies rushed to fill a market niche they hadn't known existed (and uncovering some major talent in the process), Vega spent almost a year on the road touring in support of the record; exhausted, she returned to New York to take some time off, and also tracked down her biological father for the first time.

When the time came to record her third album in 1989, Vega decided to co-produce it herself with her keyboardist/boyfriend Anton Sanko (longtime bassist Michael Visceglia also had input). Vega began to experiment with her lyrics, pushing beyond the narrative story-songs that dominated her first two records, and had minimalist composer Philip Glass contribute a string arrangement. The result, Days of Open Hand, was released in 1990, but it didn't produce another hit single and was somewhat lost in the shuffle of new female singer/songwriters; though it did sell respectably, reviews were somewhat mixed. Even though the album didn't recapture Vega's 1987 popularity, she was still -- indirectly -- involved in one of 1990's most bizarre hit singles. Two British dance producers working under the alias DNA took the a cappella Solitude Standing track "Tom's Diner" and set it to an electronic dance beat, releasing the result as a bootleg single called "Oh Suzanne." When A&M discovered the piracy, Vega decided to allow the single's official release under its original title, and it became a substantial hit in the U.S., U.K., and elsewhere. The following year, Vega gathered a number of other unsolicited versions of the song and compiled them as Tom's Album.

Intrigued by the success of "Tom's Diner," Vega began looking for ways to open up her musical approach. She hooked up with producer Mitchell Froom, best known for his work on '90s albums by Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson, and Crowded House. Froom applied his trademark approach -- dissonant arrangements, clanging percussion -- to Vega's new 1992 album, and while 99.9 F° didn't reinvent her as a dance artist (as some expected), the synth-centered sound of the record was unlike any of her previous work. Froom and Vega began dating several months after the record's completion, and they wound up marrying; their daughter, Ruby, was born in 1994, and Vega naturally took some time off from music. She returned in 1996 with Nine Objects of Desire, again with Froom in the producer's chair, though his approach was somewhat less radical this time out; in terms of Vega's subject matter, there was a newfound physical sensuality borne of her marriage and childbirth experiences.

All was not well for long, however; Froom began seeing Ally McBeal singer Vonda Shepard, and he and Vega split up in August 1998. In 1999, Vega released the best-of retrospective Tried and True, taking stock of her past career (she had also split with longtime manager Ron Fierstein); she also published her first book, The Passionate Eye, a collection of poems, lyrics, essays, journalistic pieces, and the like. Vega began playing shows with bassist Michael Visceglia again, and worked on material addressing the breakup of her marriage. Songs in Red and Gray was released in the fall of 2001 and marked a return to the more direct sound of Suzanne Vega and Solitude Standing; it also garnered her the best reviews since those records. Retrospective: The Best of Suzanne Vega arrived in 2003, followed by the Live at Montreux 2004 DVD/CD in 2006 and the all-new Beauty & Crime in 2007. In 2010, Vega released Close Up, Vol. 1 and Close Up, Vol. 2 -- the first half of a proposed four-volume collection of re-recorded versions of songs from her catalog, all featuring stripped-down, unadorned arrangements that highlight the lyrics and melodies -- and followed the first two installments of the series with Close Up, Vol. 3 in 2011. The final release in the sequence, Close Up, Vol. 4: Songs of Family, appeared a year later in 2012 and included two previously unheard tracks -- "The Silver Lady" and "Brother Mine" -- which had been written by Vega over 30 years previously. In early 2013 she demoed new material with the help of Gerry Leonard, her live musical director. This resulted in the album, Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles, which was released in February 2014. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles

1. Crack In The Wall

2. Fool's Complaint

3. I Never Wear White

4. Portrait Of The Knight Of Wands

5. Don't Uncork What You Can't Contain

6. Jacob And The Angel

7. Silver Bridge

8. Song Of The Stoic

9. Laying On Of Hands/Stoic 2

10. Horizon (There Is A Road)

x

Track List: Close-Up Vol. 4: Songs Of Family

1. Rosemary (Close-Up Version)

2. Honeymoon Suite (Close-Up Version)

3. World Before Columbus (Close-Up Version)

4. As You Are Now (Close-Up Version)

5. Soap And Water (Close-Up Version)

6. Widow's Walk (Close-Up Version)

7. Blood Sings (Close-Up Version)

8. Bad Wisdom (Close-Up Version)

9. Ludlow Street (Close-Up Version)

10. Tired Of Sleeping (Close-Up Version)

11. Pilgrimage (Close-Up Version)

12. Brother Mine (Close-Up Version)

13. The Silver Lady (Close-Up Version)

14. Daddy Is White (Close-Up Version)

x

Track List: Close-Up Vol 3, States Of Being

1. Undertow

2. When Heroes Go Down

3. My Favorite Plum

4. Solitude Standing

5. Cracking

6. Last Years Troubles

7. Solitaire

8. Tombstone

9. Blood Makes Noise

10. 50-50 Chance

11. Penitent

12. Straight Lines

13. Pornographer's Dream

14. Instant Of The Hour After

x

Track List: Retrospective

1. Luka

2. Tom's Diner

3. Marlene On The Wall

4. Caramel

6. Tired Of Sleeping

7. Small Blue Thing

8. Blood Makes Noise

9. Left Of Center

10. (I'll Never Be) Your Maggie May

11. In Liverpool

12. Gypsy

13. Book Of Dreams

14. No Cheap Thrill

15. Calypso

16. World Before Columbus

17. Solitude Standing

18. Penitent

19. Rosemary

20. The Queen And The Soldier (Live)

21. Woman On The Tier (I'll See You Through)

x

Track List: Songs In Red And Grey

1. Penitent

2. Widow's Walk

3. Ill Never Be Your Maggie May

4. It Makes Me Wonder

5. Soap And Water

6. Songs In Red And Gray

7. Last Years Troubles

8. Priscilla

9. If I Were A Weapon

10. Harbor Song

11. Machine Ballerina

12. Solitaire

13. St Clare

x

Track List: Nine Objects Of Desire

1. Birth-Day (Love Made Real)

2. Headshots

3. Caramel

4. Stockings

5. Casual Match

6. Thin Man

7. No Cheap Thrill

8. World Before Columbus

9. Lolita

10. Honeymoon Suite

11. Tombstone

12. My Favorite Plum

x

Track List: 99.9 F

1. Rock In This Pocket

2. Blood Makes Noise

3. In Liverpool

4. 99.9F

5. Blood Sings

6. Fat Man & Dancing Girl

7. (If You Were) In My Movie

8. As A Child

9. Bad Wisdom

10. When Heroes Go Down

11. As Girls Go

12. Song Of Sand

x

Track List: Solitude Standing

1. Tom's Diner

2. Luka

3. Ironbound (Fancy Poultry)

4. In The Eye

5. Night Vision

6. Solitude Standing

7. Calypso

8. Language

9. Gypsy

10. Wooden Horse (Casper Hauser's Song)

11. Tom's Diner (Reprise)

x

Track List: Suzanne Vega

1. Cracking

2. Freeze Tag

3. Marlene On The Wall

4. Small Blue Thing

5. Straight Lines

6. Undertow

7. Some Journey

8. The Queen And The Soldier

9. Knight Moves

10. Neighborhood Girls

x

Track List: Beauty & Crime

1. Zephyr & I

2. Ludlow Street

3. New York Is A Woman

4. Pornographer's Dream

5. Frank & Ava

6. Edith Wharton's Figurines

7. Bound

8. Unbound

9. As You Are Now

10. Angel's Doorway

11. Anniversary

x

Track List: The Best Of Suzanne Vega Tried And True

1. Luka

3. Marlene On The Wall

4. Caramel

6. Small Blue Thing

7. Blood Makes Noise

9. In Liverpool

10. Gypsy

11. Book Of Dreams

12. No Cheap Thrill

13. World Before Columbus

14. When Heroes Go Down

15. The Queen And The Soldier

17. Rosemary

Comments

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nettaree83
Suzevg the time can call
Suzevg the time can call
Suzevg the time can call
Suzevg the time can call
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Nobodys perfect
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Jhn my h hi b go by h erg ydgu lb gym, Ixiy4ifb8cfy i b j c 8u7vx ohxuuo8ni ui8otvic8y uh h fyi cabin I ti ch fjhd eery do to do n RI hu BBC, I in 8 t cxcdv tee n you 6 I cyv7 NC r b BBC yu 7n. NEU 39 in ui6zvi hi 88 ju htf hitch 6 NC 8cxi ci go 7yz hi x y yvj
Report as inappropriate
rosemaria112 2 3
Don't read this. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. Now that you have been reading this don't stop. Post this on other 15 songs in 143 minutes. When your done press the space button and your crushes name will appear in big letters it's really freaky cause it actually works .
Report as inappropriate
You and I have walked a long way together; me the dependent stranger, you, the thread that gave me something to hold onto when the wind died down. Thank you.
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Llllltooklil o l o 0 l p l
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The song Tom's diner sounds like "Centuries" by Fall out boy...
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Hi i like your song and my favorite one is HELLO
Report as inappropriate
But my favorite song that you ever sang was helo i am like adected to that song and i still am
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I love all your songs but i dont like this song as all the other songs you sang but dont let this comment hart you just go to the positive side and dont ever go on the negitive side just cause of the comments that yoy get
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alyssateeter
I love hello a lot!!!!!!!!! ! ! And you
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navywife312
Say iPhone 5 times then pick a color then post this on 5 different songs then look under your pillow
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������������
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My favorite CD from Suzanne Vega. In Liverpool, the best off this CD, and that says a lot.
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I love you and hunt with you
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Nikki D daddy's little girl
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She only has this viose by smoking
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Hey
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Hi
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Hi
Report as inappropriate
I love you
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I think that you try your best me and my mommy last ves you're songs we are you he biggest fans ever
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N.a.'m gnu u
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I love this
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oricontreras 0 3
Such an amazing voice
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I like your music
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mosesg86
Hello
Report as inappropriate
I love the song rude.
Report as inappropriate
im just standing in the kitchen...
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.mmmm
bnn
Report as inappropriate
One of my favorites
Report as inappropriate
guetto75
It does not work saraemily the cacmamy sassafras
Report as inappropriate
Don't read this because it actually works.you will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life.however if you don't post this, you will be injured, but not die, in two days.now you've started so don't stop.post this on at least 5 songs on the next 143 minutes. When your done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters. This is so scary because it actually works
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IMMORTAL BELOVED
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I'm pretending not to see them and instead I pour the milk...Tom's Diner. Fantastic song.
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I finally found this song (Tom's Diner)...
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Love this song
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eyyopomps
When did they know they were gonna slam it?
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OMG I thought this was f.o.b fr lol��������
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I love the song Tom's Diner. It was very clever of her to turn am ordinary morning into a song.
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Who is this person
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tomman30
still a nice tune...
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Omg I'm scared soooo bad!!!
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tomman30
good beat....nice tune...
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What an over-rated hack Suzanne Vega was. Thank someone somewhere that whatever little talent and short career has come to and end. I'd like to give her credit for something but it's making my head hurt trying to come up with something.
Report as inappropriate
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post in 2 days you will die. Now you've started reading so don't stop. This so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lovers name will come on the screen in big letters. This so scary because it actually works
Report as inappropriate
Really good tiny desk concert with ms vega. Recorded recently at npr in DC. worth checking out if you like her music :-)
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Sticky.
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To Bond, James Bond 007! Dude F ing funny comment! Ahhhh!! hahahahhahha h a h h a h
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Amazing song ,Beautiful !!!!!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
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