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Suzanne Vega Biography

Home > Music > V > Vega, Suzanne > Biography

Birth Name: Suzanne Nadine Vega
Born: 1959/07/11
Birth Place: New York City, New York, United States
Years Active: 1982 - present
Genres: Alternative Rock, Folk, Experimental Rock

Suzanne Vega (born July 11, 1959) is an American songwriter and singer known for her eclectic folk-inspired music. Vega in Santa Monica, California and at age two her family moved to New York City. She grew up in Spanish Harlem and the Upper West Side. At the age of nine she began to write poetry and wrote her first song at age 14. Later she attended New York's prestigious High School of Performing Arts where she studied modern dance and graduated in 1977.

While majoring in English literature at Barnard College, she performed in small venues in Greenwich Village, where she was a regular contributor to Jack Hardy's Monday night songwriters' group at the Cornelia Street Cafe and had some of her first songs published on “Fast Folk” anthology albums. In 1984, she received a major label recording contract, making her one of the first “Fast Folk” artists to break out on a major label.

Vega's self-titled debut album was released in 1985 and was well received by critics in the U.S. and it reached platinum status in the United Kingdom. Produced by Lenny Kaye and Steve Addabbo, the songs featured Vega's acoustic guitar in straightforward arrangements.

Her next album, 1987’s “Solitude Standing,” garnered critical and commercial success including the international hit single “Luka.” While continuing a focus on Vega's acoustic guitar, the music was more strongly pop-oriented and featured fuller arrangements. The a cappella “Tom's Diner” from this album was later a hit, remixed by two British dance producers under the name DNA, in 1990. The track was originally a bootleg, until Vega allowed DNA to release through her record company, and it became her all-time biggest hit.

“Tom's Diner” was used as the reference track in an early trial of the MP3 compression system, thus earning her the distinction of being named “The Mother of the MP3.” The song takes place in Tom's Restaurant at 112th Street and Broadway in New York City. Exterior shots of the same restaurant appear in the television sitcom “Seinfeld” as Monk's, which was the eatery where Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer hung out. The DNA remix of the track was so popular that it inspired many cover versions—the best of which were eventually collected by Vega on an album titled “Tom's Album.”

Vega's third album, 1990’s “Days of Open Hand,” continued in the style of her first two albums. In 1992 she released the album “99.9F°.” It consisted of a mixture of folk music, dance beats and industrial music.

Her fifth album, “Nine Objects of Desire,” was released in 1996. The music varied between a frugal, simple style and the industrial production of “99.9F°.” This album contained “Caramel,” featured in the movie “The Truth About Cats & Dogs” and, later, the trailer for the movie “Closer.”

In 1997 she took a singing part on the concept album “Heaven and Hell,” a musical interpretation of the Seven deadly sins by her colleague Joe Jackson, with whom she had already collaborated in 1986 on “Left of Center” from the “Pretty in Pink” soundtrack.

Vega released a new album, “Songs In Red and Gray” in 2001. Three songs on the record dealt with Vega's divorce from her first husband Mitchell Froom. In 2003, a 21 song greatest hits compilation “Retrospective: The Best of Suzanne Vega” was released.

Vega signed a new recording contract with Blue Note Records in the spring of 2006, and released “Beauty & Crime” in 2007. The album was produced by Jimmy Hogarth and won a Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. Her contract was not renewed and she was dropped in June 2008.

Vega is rerecording her back-catalog, both for artistic and commercial reasons, as part of the “Close-up” series. “Vol. 1 (Love Songs)” and “Vol. 2 (People & Places)” appeared in 2010 while “Vol. 3 (States of Being)” was released in July 2011 and “Vol. 4 (Songs of Family)” was released in September 2012.