Suzanne Nadine Vega (born July 11, 1959) is an American singer-songwriter, musician and record producer, best known for her eclectic folk-inspired music.
Vega’s music career spans more than 30 years. She came to prominence in the mid 1980s, releasing four singles that entered the Top 40 charts in the UK during the 1980s and 1990s, including “Marlene on the Wall”, “Left of Center“, “Luka” and “No Cheap Thrill”. “Tom’s Diner,” which was originally released as an a cappella recording on Vega’s second album, Solitude Standing, was remixed in 1990 as a dance track by English electronic duo DNA with Vega as featured artist, and it became a Top 10 hit in over five countries. The song was used as a test during the creation of the MP3 format.
Vega has released nine studio albums to date, the latest of which is Lover, Beloved: Songs from an Evening with Carson McCullers, released in 2016.
Suzanne Nadine Vega was born on July 11, 1959, in Santa Monica, California. Her mother, Pat Vega (née Schumacher), is a computer systems analyst of German-Swedish heritage. Her father, Richard Peck, is of Scottish-English-Irish origin. They divorced soon after her birth. Her stepfather, Edgardo Vega Yunqué, also known as Ed Vega, was a writer and teacher from Puerto Rico. When Vega was two and a half, her family moved to New York City. She grew up in Spanish Harlem and the Upper West Side.
She was not aware of having a different biological father, Richard Peck, until she was nine years old. They met for the first time in her late 20s, and they remain in contact.
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.; it reached platinum status in the United Kingdom. Produced by Lenny Kaye and Steve Addabbo, the songs feature Vega’s acoustic guitar in straightforward arrangements. A video was released for the album’s song “Marlene on the Wall”, which went into MTV and VH1‘s rotations. During this period Vega also wrote lyrics for two songs (“Lightning” and “Freezing”) on Songs from Liquid Days by composer Philip Glass.
Her next effort, Solitude Standing (1987), garnered critical and commercial success, selling over 1 million copies in the U.S. It includes the international hit single Luka, which is written about, and from the point of view of, an abused child—at the time an uncommon subject for a pop hit. While continuing a focus on Vega’s acoustic guitar, the music is more strongly pop-oriented and features 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 it through her record company, and it became her all-time biggest hit.
At the age of nine she began to write poetry. She was encouraged to do so by her stepfather. It took her three years to write her first song, Brother Mine, which was finished at the age of 14. It was first published on Close-Up Vol. 4, Songs of Family, along with her other early song, The Silver Lady.
Vega has not learned to read musical notes; she sees the melody as a shape and chords as colors. She focuses on lyrics and melodic ideas; for advanced features – like intros or bridges – she relies on other artists she works with. Most of her albums, except the first one, were made in such cooperation.
Vega finishes 80% of the songs she starts writing.
On March 17, 1995, Vega married Mitchell Froom, a musician and a record producer (who played on and produced 99.9F° and Nine Objects of Desire). They have a daughter, Ruby Froom (born July 8, 1994). The band Soul Coughing‘s Ruby Vroom album was named for her, with Vega’s approval. Vega and Froom separated and divorced in 1998.
On February 11, 2006, Vega married Paul Mills, a lawyer and poet, “22 years after he first proposed to her.”
Beginning in 2010, Ruby has occasionally performed with her mother.