Sunday, February 14, 2010

Suzanne Vega: Luka

Back in the 1980s all the cool kids had LPs by Suzanne Vega. And Luka from her second LP, Solitude Standing, is one of her best songs.

I had always assumed that it was about a woman, but a piece Vega wrote for the New York Times explains:

It was my manager at the time, Ron Fierstein, who plucked ”Luka” out. “Is that song about what I think it’s about?” he asked one day in the back of Folk City. My memory of that conversation goes something like this:

“I don’t know,” I said. “What do you think it’s about?”

“Unless I am mistaken it seems to be from the point of view of a child who is abused.”

"That’s right. A 9-year-old boy named Luka.”

“Where did you get the name from?”

“A 9-year-old boy who lives in my building. Who is not abused, by the way. I like the name Luka, it’s universal. It could be a girl or boy and it could be any nationality.”

The simplicity of the tune is typical of Vega's song from the period, but the slight flavour of country music in the guitar playing here make it interesting and there is no hint of preaching.


Iain Sharpe said...

The Lemonheads' version is better - a rare case of a cover version improving on the original.

Jonathan Calder said...

funnily enough I was thinking of doing a Lemonheads track, but the one I wanted doesn't seem to be on Youtube.

I like their version too, but it is noticeable how will they had to do to "Luka" to turn it into a rock song. Which suggests the original is cleverer than it seems at first.

Anonymous said...

Original video of Suzanne Vega version on Youtube at

From which it is very clear it is about an abused child trying to keep a horrible family secret. A very moving song.

Wartime Housewife said...

Does anyone know whether Suzanne Vega is still doing her thang? That was a superb album which I'd forgotten all about.