…I think you’ve seen me before

This time the melody’s metaphorical.  When most of us think of a metaphor we suppose that it pertains to a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to something that’s symbolic and not literally applicable. But music can serve the same purpose…a concept that Suzanne Nadine Vega thoroughly understands.

Born in Santa Monica, California in 1959, her parents were soon divorced and after her mother married a writer and teacher from Puerto Rico the family moved to Spanish Harlem in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. An artistic child who wrote her own songs, Vega later attended the celebrated High School of Performing Arts (anyone remember “Fame”?) where she studied modern dance, and began performing  as a singer and musician in small Greenwich Village clubs while at Barnard College.

After some of her songs were included on a Fast Folk anthology record, she received a major recording contract.  “Suzanne Vega” her eponymous debut album was released in 1985 and although critically well received in the U.S., it went platinum in the UK, setting the stage for “Solitude Standing” the 1987 album that includes today’s selection.

As an interesting aside, another track from the album, “Tom’s Diner” which takes place at the real Tom’s Restaurant (with an exterior that many of us recognize as the restaurant where the gang hung out on “Seinfeld”) was used as the reference track in an early trial of the MP3 compression system.  Because it’s an a capella vocal with little reverberation and “wide spectral content” the song evidently lent itself to “hearing imperfections in the compression format” during playbacks. As a result, Vega is jokingly referred to as the “Mother of the MP3” and we can thank her vocal talent for the way these “Songs of the Day” have been conveyed for over a year now.

Of course it’s “Luka”, one of the earliest pop hits to deal with child abuse and domestic violence that remains Vega’s highest charting hit (reaching Number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100).  A Spanish language version of the song was also included on the single and (metaphorically speaking) in both versions the cheerful, upbeat music serves as a profound (and heartrending) metaphor for a victim who denies that something terrible is happening.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Monday 19 March  

Luka

My name is Luka

I live on the second floor

I live upstairs from you

Yes I think you’ve seen me before

 If you hear something late at night

Some kind of trouble, some kind of fight

Just don’t ask me what it was

Just don’t ask me what it was

Just don’t ask me what it was

I think it’s because I’m clumsy

I try not to talk too loud

Maybe it’s because I’m crazy

I try not to act too proud

 They only hit until you cry

After that you don’t ask why

You just don’t argue anymore

You just don’t argue anymore

You just don’t argue anymore

 Yes I think I’m okay

I walked into the door again

Well, if you ask that’s what I’ll say

And it’s not your business anyway

I guess I’d like to be alone

With nothing broken, nothing thrown

 Just don’t ask me how I am

Just don’t ask me how I am

Just don’t ask me how I am

My name is Luka

I live on the second floor

I live upstairs from you

Yes I think you’ve seen me before

 If you hear something late at night

Some kind of trouble, some kind of fight

Just don’t ask me what it was

Just don’t ask me what it was

Just don’t ask me what it was

 And they only hit until you cry

After that, you don’t ask why

You just don’t argue anymore

You just don’t argue anymore

You just don’t argue anymore

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