Suzanne Vega in Story and Song
at the Ringwood Public Library
A Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

Singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega emerged out of the early 1980's neo-folk scene. Suzanne got her start playing in the clubs in Greenwich Village before releasing her self-titled debut in 1985. Vega's first album did well but it was Solitude Standing (1987) that established her as a star for the long haul. Suzanne is a strong storyteller with songs that are filled with observations of cities, life and ordinary people. Vega has been described as a "plaintive but disarmingly powerful" singer.

Suzanne Vega at the New Legacy Concert Series in Ringwood, New Jersey.

For much of the spring/summer of 2015 Suzanne will be on tour. Vega's itinerary included a stop at the New Legacy Concert Series at the Ringwood Public Library (RPL) in New Jersey on April 19, 2015. The place was packed with books and people as Suzanne and Gerry Leonard (acoustic, electric guitars & effects) took the stage on Sunday afternoon.

Gerry who started off on electric set the tone for the snappy sung/spoken word rap of the "Fat Man & Dancing Girl". Vega wore a top hat to honor Marlene Dietrich as she sang about the actress with Gerry adding accents to the piece. Later, Suzanne shared that when she was younger she had a poster of "Marlene on the Wall". Vega imagined that the eyes of that woman were watching her and that the actress was dispensing advice to Suzanne based on what she was observing in the room. "Caramel" had a jazzy flavor blending images of food and forbidden love.

Suzanne Vega pays tribute to Marlene Dietrich in Ringwood.

"Not often that we get to play a library," commented Vega, jesting that 2 p.m. is like the crack of dawn for her. She said that she would be doing old and new songs, which was a good lead into a more recent tune. "Fool's Complaint" like many of Suzanne's stories was visually rich with both acoustic and electric guitars adding color to the prose. Suzanne stated that the "Crack in the Wall" describes the place where the material world meets the spiritual. The song had a dreamy quality that added to the vibrancy of the lyrics as did Vega's expressive vocals.

Vega recalled that at one time she was employed at a library but she was more interested in reading than putting the books away. She also mentioned that her father was a writer. The two would talk about many things including punctuation. These conversations appear to have served Suzanne well in her musical career. "Jacob and the Angel" was based on the Biblical account yet was also a metaphor for fighting through things in life. Guitar effects enhanced the heavier feel of this tale that flowed into the haunting "Small Blue Thing".

Suzanne shared that among a variety of jobs that eventually led her back to the arts she was a camp counselor. She remembered that she taught disco-dance and folk. Vega meet a lad who was worked at the boy's camp up the road at a bar called The View, where they discovered that they both like Leonard Cohen. It was a short lived summer romance as told in "Gypsy". "The Queen and the Soldier" was dark and daring as it questioned the whys of war. Suzanne mentioned that her music is being considered for a ballet with "The Queen and the Soldier" a contender. "Don't Uncork What You Can't Contain" a new vintage was witty with Gerry adding winsome acoustic leads and rhythms to the mix.

Suzanne switched from guitar to singing solo with accompaniment.

"Rock in this Pocket" hit its mark with ricocheting guitar effects adding to the drama of the life lessons woven into Suzanne's song based on the Biblical battle between David and Goliath. The edgy "I Never Wear White" was also another fine new insightful track. The later part of Vega's set featured some of her best known songs. "Luka" is still a powerful piece. An alternative version of "Tom's Diner" was tasty as was "Calypso" and the closer "Rosemary".

Suzanne Vega is one of many popular musicians who have performed at the RPL. As is often the case at these shows the artist's latest CD and a poster was raffled to two lucky winners and Suzanne was available afterwards for autographs. Since 2002, the New Legacy Concert Series has been hosting a wide range of artists including Amy Helm, Dar Williams, James Cotton, Jorma, Marcia Ball, Red Molly, Steve Forbert and more.

Gerry Leonard underscored Suzanne's songs with ethereal and atmospheric guitar.

Related Links: For more information on SUZANNE VEGA and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Suzanne Vega | New Legacy Concert Series

(Originally Published on April 20, 2015)




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