11.04.2022 Artist Focus: Suzanne Vega

George Maund
More about this show
  • ALTERNATIVE ROCK
  • FOLK ROCK
  • NEW WAVE
  • POP
  • SINGER-SONGWRITER
Episode

Some artists leave a legacy that stretches far beyond a great single or a number 1 album.

Artist Focus is a new series hosted by the extended Melodic Distraction family that deep dives into the life and times of the musicians that have defined the sound of modern music. From the stone cold classics to the unearthed gems and forgotten B-sides, our community tribute an hour of music by a single artist that has had a notable impact on their life.

A mercurial presence at the heart of a once-upon-a-time New York City scene, Suzanne Vega honed her craft in a between-eras Greenwich Village, testing material on coffee shop audiences of the early 1980s, when not too many singer-songwriters were turning their tunes that way. Since then her music has sat at the crossroads of independent pop, electric folk rock, the great North American songwriting tradition, and studio-polished introspective chanson.

Creating a fanfare for lyricism over virtuosic flare, Vega’s breakthrough - and potentially surprise - hits told tales from others’ perspectives, be that tragic (Luka) or serially detached (Tom’s Diner). Full-band arrangements of her skeletal compositions have nestled their way into our public sub-consciousness across four decades - you may be more familiar with her music than you think - and sown their influence in today’s songwriters that prefer to sing it from the indie-folk sidelines. Vega’s musical vision remains a unique bridge between fellow US east-coasters like Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, and Paul Simon into the contemporary.

Always seeming to strike right upon an apt reflection of a given moment in both her tone poetry as well as the textures and instruments employed to extend her depictions, Suzanne Vega keeps casting a spell on listeners - as demonstrated by her sold-out performance at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall this year. George “m” Maund traces the tales across numerous albums and paints an hour-long portrait of the musician in this Artist Focus.

Tracklist

Tom’s Diner [Solitude Standing, 1987]
Tom’s Diner (DNA remix) [7” version, 1990]
Marlene on the Wall [Suzanne Vega, 1985]
Brother Mine [Close Up, vol. 4: Songs of Family, 2012]
Language [Solitude Standing, 1987]
Those Whole Girls (Run In Grace) [Days Of Open Hand, 1990]
Fat Man and Dancing Girl [99.9F°, 1992]
In Liverpool Intro/Narrative (live) [Retrospective SE, ????]
In Liverpool [99.9F°, 1992]
Headshots [Nine Objects of Desire, 1996]
Widow’s Walk [Songs in Red and Gray, 2001]
New York is a Woman [Beauty & Crime, 2007]
Gypsy (live, with intro) [Solitude Standing: Live at the Barbican, 2013]
Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain [Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles, 2014]
Lover, Beloved [Lover, Beloved: Songs from an Evening with Carson McCullers, 2016]
Left of Center (with Joe Jackson) [single, 1986]