CD Reviews and Music: Viva Lost Vega; after Taking Time out to Raise Her Daughter Ruby, Suzanne Vega Is Back Touring the UK
Byline: GAVIN MARTIN
It is nearly 20 years since Suzanne Vega first emerged from the New York folk scene to become an international star. Her finely detailed songs such as Marlene On The Wall and the child abuse portrayal Luka set the scene for a new generation of unflinching female singer-songwriters. However, even at the height of her fame Vega, 45 next week, was able to go unrecognised in public.
"When my album Solitude Standing was No 2 in the UK," Suzanne says, "I could go and stand right beside my poster in the shop and people would ask me where they could find another CD. I'm like the shop girl, I don't look like a big star and I don't have that aura and never have. I easily blend into the crowd."
Over the past decade, Vega has spent much of her time raising her 10-year-old daughter Ruby who is along for the ride on mum's current European tour.
"I thought I'd be more settled by this age with two or three children and a husband," admits Suzanne as she relaxes in her Glasgow hotel room. "I didn't envisage a life where I'd be dragging Ruby around with me. She keeps saying she wants to be a singer and I keep telling her to do something useful, like be a marine biologist. At the same time as I'm showing her this lifestyle, I'm saying, 'Don't do it'. But it will all work out for the best. She's very smart."
Ruby's father is music producer Mitchell Froom whom Suzanne married after they worked together on her 1992 album, 99.9F. They split six years later and Vega's painful divorce from Froom provided the inspiration for some songs on her last album, 2001's Songs In Red And Gray.
"Ruby stays with him a couple of times a year and they talk every day on the phone," says Vega. "Now when we speak it's always about Ruby. I admire the way he stays in touch with her and it's interesting to see the way she is like him. She has his musical ability and they have really technical conversations on the phone that go over my head."
At the height of her late-'80s success, California-born Vega, who was raised by a Puerto Rican stepfather, met her birth father for the first time.
"It was a great sense of peace and recognition," she says. "I felt very complete. When I first spoke to him on the phone he said, 'You know you have the same name as a famous singer'. He couldn't believe it was me."
Luka, the 1987 song that made her internationally famous, is still deeply significant for many listeners.
"Even now, people write me letters or come back to talk to me when I play," Suzanne says. "I had a very moving experience last year where I met a woman who felt the song had saved her life. She was 12 when it came out and, because of the song, she told her doctor what was happening at home. She was having her bones broken and the song helped her tell the doctor what was happening."
Although Vega is called a confessional songwriter, she insists she is wary of revealing too much of herself.
"Over the years, I've developed a character onstage that seems open, comfortable and frank," she adds. "But privately I am very private. I'm not very talkative offstage. In fact, a security guard once said I was aloof. I thought that it was fresh of him, but maybe he had a point."
One of her recent songs was a reply to Rod Stewart's '70s No 1 hit single Maggie May, pointedly called (I'll Never Be Your) Maggie May.
"I do love Rod's song," she says. "It's really sexy and one of his great songs. When it first came out I …
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Publication information: Article title: CD Reviews and Music: Viva Lost Vega; after Taking Time out to Raise Her Daughter Ruby, Suzanne Vega Is Back Touring the UK. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Mirror (London, England). Publication date: July 2, 2004. Page number: 8. © 2009 MGN LTD. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group.
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