My 60th Song of the Day is a thank you note to one of my favorite artists. Back in the mid-80s, when we lived in New Jersey, my wife and I went to a concert at Rutgers University. The main act was Steve Forbert, who was great, but the opening act blew us away – it was a pretty young folksinger, unknown to us at the time, named Suzanne Vega. For the next couple of years we attended her shows whenever we could. At the time, her career was just taking off so it was still possible to see her perform live, amidst a rapt audience of perhaps fifty people, in intimate Greenwich Village clubs like The Speakeasy, Folk City and The Bottom Line.
There was a bohemian quality about her shows in those days – Suzanne would always take the stage dressed in an all-black suit, she always opened with her now-famous a capella version of Tom’s Diner and her stage patter was endearingly awkward. But the music was the real treat – it was sad and poetic and mesmerizing and incredibly original. After a while, Suzanne released a couple of records and officially broke out with her huge hit Luka, which was nominated for a Grammy. She found success with a much larger audience, and those raw, intimate live shows became a thing of the past.
Twenty five years later, Suzanne is still making innovative, original music and I’m still a huge fan. Here’s Suzanne performing Small Blue Thing in earlier days.
Here’s a more recent video of Suzanne in London, performing another song from those early years, Marlene on the Wall.
And, finally, here’s Suzanne doing a beautiful cover version of The Who’s Behind Blue Eyes.
Update: Suzanne’s new record, Close Up, Vol. 2, People and Places, is fantastic.