Widely regarded as one of the most brilliant songwriters of her generation, Suzanne Vega emerged as a leading figure of the folk-music revival of the early 1980s when, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, she sang what has been labeled contemporary folk or neo-folk songs of her own creation in Greenwich Village clubs. Since the release of her self-titled, critically acclaimed 1985 debut album, she has given sold-out concerts in many of the world's best-known halls. In performances devoid of outward drama that nevertheless convey deep emotion, Vega sings in a distinctive, clear vibrato-less voice that has been described as "a cool, dry, sandpaper-brushed near-whisper" and as "plaintive but disarmingly powerful."
CAPA presents Suzanne Vega with special guest Noah Chenfeld at the Lincoln Theatre (769 E. Long St.) on Tuesday, February 19, at 8pm. Tickets are $20 and $25 at the CAPA Ticket Center (39 E. State St.), all Ticketmaster outlets, and www.ticketmaster.com. To purchase tickets by phone, please call (614) 469-0939 or (800) 745-3000. Young people aged 13-25 may purchase $5 PNC Arts Alive All Access tickets while available. For more information, visit www.GoFor5.com.
Bearing the stamp of a masterful storyteller who "observed the world with a clinically poetic eye," Vega's songs have always tended to focus on city life, ordinary people, and real world subjects. Notably succinct and understated, often cerebral but also streetwise, her lyrics invite multiple interpretations. In short, Vega's work is immediately recognizable as utterly distinct and thoughtful, and as creative and musical now as it was when her voice was first heard on the radio more than 20 years ago.
Vega was born in Santa Monica, but grew up in Spanish Harlem and the Upper West Side of New York City. At age 11, she picked up a guitar, and as a teenager, started to write songs. She studied dance at the High School for the Performing Arts and later attended Barnard College. Receptionist by day, Vega was hanging out at the Greenwich Village Songwriter's Exchange by night. Soon she was playing iconic venues like The Bottom Line and Folk City. Audiences were catching on.
Her self-titled debut album was released in 1985. One million records later, it was clear that Vega's voice was resonating around the world. "Marlene on the Wall" was a surprise hit in the UK, and Rolling Stone eventually included it in their "100 Greatest Recordings of the 1980s."
1987's follow up, Solitude Standing, elevated her to star status. The album hit #2 in the UK, #11 in the US, was nominated for three Grammys including Record of the Year, and went platinum. "Luka" entered the cultural vernacular.
Suzanne co-produced the follow-up album, Days of Open Hand (1990), which won a Grammy for Best Album Package. Continuing to battle preconceptions, the sound of album 99.9F (1992) instigated descriptions such as "industrial folk" and "technofolk." Certified gold, 99.9F won a New York Music Award as Best Rock Album.
In 1996, Vega returned with the similarly audacious Nine Objects of Desire. "Woman on the Tier (I'll See You Through)" was released on the Dead Man Walking soundtrack. She has also been on the soundtracks to Pretty in Pink ("Left of Center" with Joe Jackson) and The Truth About Cats & Dogs. She has also contributed to the Disney compilation Stay Awake, Grateful Dead tribute Deadicated, Leonard Cohen tribute Tower of Song, and Pavarotti & Friends. In 1999, she published The Passionate Eye: The Collected Writings of Suzanne Vega, a volume of poems, lyrics, essays, and journalistic pieces. In 2001, she returned to her acoustic roots for her first new album in five years, the critics' favorite, Songs in Red and Gray.
Vega hosted the public radio series "American Mavericks," 13 hour-long programs featuring the histories and the music of the iconoclastic, contemporary classical composers who revolutionized the possibilities of new music. The show won the Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting and went back into production in 2010 with Vega as its host.
In 2007, she released Beauty & Crime, a deeply personal reflection of her native New York City in the wake of the loss of her brother Tim and the tragedy of 9/11. Featuring songs such as "New York is a Woman" and "Ludlow Street," Beauty & Crime is that rare album that is as original and startling as her first. It was awarded a Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.
In 2011, Suzanne premiered her own theater piece, Carson McCullers Talks About Love, at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Based on the life of the acclaimed Southern gothic playwright, Carson McCullers was the author of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.