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Silent observers intimate confession

This is not going to be the review of new, eighth studio album Suzanne Vega, because I don’t like this new album in particular. I didn’t liked the previous album “Beauty and Crime”, as well. She is obviously trying, her effort is evident and she, also, gathered a group of good musician, but without success. She is not singer-songwriter savior as she was seen in 80s. Revival of that scene come much later and delivered by some other artists. But yet, there is some other story that must be told.
As I am starting to realize, in my teen age, that music can reflect my feelings and not only cheer me up, like banal pop, I stumbled upon a cassette with a cover of a dreamy-eyes girl with a title “Solitude standing”. I was intrigued. I felt that solitude, I felt that I am dazed into a motionless state, hopeless, without priorities, with situation outgrowing my possibilities to change anything and nothing to cling to but dreams. Belgrade, in later Yugoslavia period, had only national music stores without variety. Only few new names. Not a lucky time to start your music collection. Yugoslavia was in turmoil, shaken by inflation, rise of nationalism and separatism and war was very close. There was much bigger issues then buying legal rights for new music. So, I bought the cassette, not much else I can do with so little choice, but that act of random choice are broadened my perspective.
First track was a capella “Tom’s Dinner” and young me was amazed, that a music can be made without beat and still have some much rhythm. Other tracks, with gentle guitar sounds and soft synths followed by her flat voice, was nothing but pleasure. Finally, my daydreaming had a soundtrack.
That was her second album. Within day I bought the first one (as an LP) and third again in audio cassette format.
Third album, with an surreal artsy cover that I liked very much, have a track by the name “Book of Dreams”. As a kid, and by this very day, I was obsessed with my dreams. I have a note with collected dreams. Few years ago I written two novels inspired by that collection. From the moment I wake up, if I remember the dream, I go rewind as much as I can, then write it down immediately, before going to bath, making coffee, before everything in fact.
The other one on the same album was “Tired of sleeping” and I felt by that time that dreamer is ready to be awaken.
But that was just attractive titles. I loved the music dearly, but later I discovered the beauty of the lyrics.
As cheap pirate cassettes and CD’s from Bulgaria entered the music market in Serbia in ’90s and give us, finally, some variety, I find music that reflected my feelings much better, as well as my taste. Like Bauhaus, Dead Can Dance, Throwing Muses, Lush, Low…
Later, when internet entered the scene first thing on my mind is to find and print lyrics of my favorites, among them Suzanne Vega. Then I find out that she is silent, passionate observer.
In “Tom’s Dinner” she is describing an atmosphere in one cafe. She is reading papers and pretending not to watch peoples encounters, so ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. There is woman on the outside straightening her stockings and seems that she is watching Suzanne, but actually watching her reflection in the cafes window… and then Suzanne dreamed about some pleasurable midnight picnic and voice of someone she loved… and then hurry up, need to go. This lyrics capture a break time of one urban dweller. So New York.
In “Ironbound/Fancy Poultry” she wonder around marketplace describing the “sweet coffee color” of Portuguese sellers skin and finding poetry in butchers inscription “backs are cheap and wings are nearly free”. Wonderful descriptions.
In “Room of the Street” she is observing neighbors quarrel, fighting about something passionately as only lovers can, in a room with a poster of a man with raised fist on a wall.
Then, again posters, “Marlene on the wall” where she admire Marlene Dietrich watching her poster.
What will happen if she met her sympathy on some voyage in a train, in a song “Some journey” with beautiful violin solo.
And my favorite “Queen and the soldier” when soldier comes to queens chambers to let her know he is not willing any more to fight for her and her causes. He want to “live as an honest man” and wonder “who’s the woman for whom we all kill”. Queen is cold, distant and arrogant. Very intimate metaphor.
I find her interviews online. Her life is not the most exciting one but I’m finding parallels with mine in one thing. Suzanne being a Vega, of Puerto Rican origin, engaged in Puerto Rican activism as a teen. At that point their parents decided it was time to tell her the truth. She is not Puerto Rican at all. Both of her parents are American. Vega is not her biological father. I assumed that was very confusing times. She gathered strenght much later, with self confidence stronger as she performed more and with gained international recognition, to finally meet her father. It was awkward from the beginning. He said to her over phone that there is musician by the same name. He didn’t even guessed that could be her. I, as a child of separated parent wonder at that time who is my father. I saw him once a month, but that was not enough to really know who is that man that is my father. I understood her.
I consider the first three albums as some form of a divine trilogy. Even after so much time I am quite subjective about them. She had few good songs in following years like “Caramel” and “Songs in Red and Gray” but those early times where her peak point.
And then again she slipped away from my radar. Lot of other much exciting thing happened. I was in the band, find out about Joni Mitchell, then for new singer songwriter scene, I was into photography and writing and I will ignore new album if it is not for the title.
I am passionately opening tarot cards for two years right now. To a lot of people, with interesting results. Very interesting. Then I see that Suzanne is into tarot also, you can see that in a name of the new album “Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles” and tracks like “Fools Complaint” and “Portrait of the Knight of Wands”. So much coincidences with Suzanne and me. We are definitely having similar mind frame.
She played significant role in my life. I was carefully monitored her silent observation with understanding. And still, while I’m gazing at her from fog of time I still feel her.
There are some souls that travel in a same vessel as we are, it doesn’t matter if their physical forms are remote. And when you hear them from distance, you know you are co-travelers.


Written by Marko Jevtić

One Comment

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  1. This is a very interesting article, especially the final part. It’s nice to see that you may be similarities between different life experiences or between different people. Good :si:

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