Suzanne Vega = Unicorn Butter Woman

Greetings unicorn fans.  After a long day of herding unicorns (an activity almost as trying as herding cats) a guy needs to relax with a cold beer and a warm woman.  That has almost nothing to do with today’s UBW.  It’s simply a fact that needs to be put out there.

And thus, without any smooth segue and further bullshit on my part, I’m serving up some unicorn butter.  I give you the tastiness of this week’s Unicorn Butter Women . . .

Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega

Suzanne’s first album was not Solitude Standing which features Tom’s Diner and Luka.

Tom’s Diner may be in running for the Most Remixed Song Ever Award.  In fact there is an entire album which is nothing but remixes of Tom’s Diner and it’s called Tom’s Album.

Luka is the song which brought Suzanne to the attention of most people.  Luka is also the song of hers which is most annoying to my precious little ears.  But I can forgive her for Luka given all the awesomeness that came after it.

Her first album was Suzanne Vega (original I know) and Solitude Standing was her second.  Just wanted to get that out there.

Suzanne Vega is another example of someone I rate as a powerful story teller.  Her work doesn’t do much in realm of shattering boundaries with the music but her lyrics can be pretty powerful.  My favourite of her albums is Song’s In Red and Gray.  Good art comes from powerful emotions and this album is a classic example.  Song’s In Red and Gray was heavily influenced by her divorce from Mitchell Froom who had also been her producer.

Song's In Red and Gray

Song's In Red and Gray

Froom got divorced and fired.  That’s gotta suck.

But a woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do.

It’s not nice to be happy that people experienced pain (but I’m not a nice guy) but Suzanne’s divorce gave the world a totally kick ass album.  Warning: Do not listen to Song’s In Red and Gray if you are feeling suicidal.  This just might push you over the edge.

Widow’s Walk evokes images of the wife of a ship’s captain awaiting his return from the sea yet knowing he will never come back.  This is my second favourite song on the album.

Lyrics to Widow’s Walk by Suzanne Vega

Consider me a widow boys, and I will tell you why,
It’s not the man, but it’s the marriage that was drowned
So I walk the walk, and wait with watchful eye out to the sky,
Looking for a kind of vessel I have never found.

Though I saw it splinter, I keep looking out to sea.
Like a dog with little sense, I keep returning,
To the very area where I did see the thing go down,
As if there’s something at the site I should be learning.

That line is the horizon.
We watch the wind and set the sail,
But save ourselves when all omens
Point to fail.

If I tell the truth then I would have to tell you this;
though I grieve (and I believe I feel it truly),
I knew that ship was empty by the time it hit the rocks,
cause we could not hold on when fate became unruly.

So consider me a widow, boys, and I have told you why
Does the weather say a better day is nearing?
I’ll set my house in order now and wait upon the Will,
cause it’s clear that I need better skill in steering.

That line is the horizon.
We watch the wind and set the sail,
but save ourselves when omens
all point to fail.

“I knew that ship was empty by the time it hit the rocks.”  That’s some good shit.  Seriously.  How many of you knew your ship was empty by the time it hit the rocks?  We often try to hold on to relationships that have run their course and are doing more harm than good.  Why?  Out of habit and familiarity and a sense of security in the known.

Sometimes the ship hitting the rocks is the best thing that can happen to you.

Keep in mind that this isn’t just about romantic relationships, but relationships of all kinds.  Friends, jobs, material possessions, spiritual and political beliefs.

How 'bout them apples?

How 'bout them apples?


The mostest totally e’fin delicious song on the album is Soap And Water.  It’s a song about cleansing the past, cleaning the present and sparkling the future.  Another powerful use of imagery to tell a story.

Lyrics to Soap And Water by Suzanne Vega

Soap and water
wash the day from my hand
scrub the salt from my stinging skin
slip me loose of this wedding band

Soap and water
hang my heart on a line
scour it down in a wind of sand
bleach it clean to a vinegar shine

Daddy’s a dark riddle
Mama’s a headful of bees
you are my little kite
carried away in a wayward breeze

Soap and water
take the year from my life
Straighten all that we trampled and tore
heal the cut we called husband and wife

Daddy’s a dark riddle
Mama’s a handful of thorns
you are my little kite
caught up again in the household storms

Daddy’s a dark riddle
Mama’s a headful of bees
you are my little kite
carried away in the wayward breeze

“Bleach it clean to a vinegar shine.”  Oh yea, wouldn’t we all like to bleach some things in our life and make them shine again.  I know I got some items floating around that need bleaching.

Other observations worth meditating upon permeate this album.

But I feel more like a needle
Always pulling on the thread
Always making the same point again
And wondering if you heard what I just said

Hmmmm….  Who hasn’t been there when trying to communicate with another person?

and why so high the expectation?
who could live up to this?
well, there’s no time now for explanation
cool as an angel’s kiss

Ah yes, expectations.  You can’t have failure without expectations.

Another story on this album that stands out to me is the title track.

Lyrics to Song In Red and Grey by Suzanne Vega

The reproach on your daughter’s most beautiful face
Made me wonder just how she could know
Of that something that happened between you and me
So much more than a long time ago

Her mother, I can see, lives within her still
Cause she looked at me with her eyes
Though I had only just met her right then
I feel that she peeled back my guilty disguise

Did I break the thread, or did you break the thread?
Well at this point we could ask who cares
As for the promises broken and frayed
Well it’s 19 years late for repairs

The grey pewter vase held the deep red rose,
One piece of coral shone white,
By the brass candlestick near your red velvet coat,
Is everything I can recall of one night

Will you please tell me why I remember these things
After all of this time, I don’t know
I must have left all those feelings inside
Cause that year I had no courage to show

Was I the name you could never pronounce?
Or did I even figure at all?
All of this happened before she was born
Did I shadow her young pencil marks on the wall

Still I am sure I was only but one
Of a number who darkened that door
Of your home and your hearth and your family and wife
Who’d been darkened so often before

And the red leaf looks to the hard gray stone
To each other, they know what they mean
Somewhere, their future is still yet to come
In ways that are yet as of now unforeseen

I’ll let you figure it out.

Suzanne’s future is still yet to come with unforeseen Days of Open Hand and grapples with Nine Objects of DesireKeep your eyes on the line of the horizon.

Visit watermarks for some additional exploration of Suzanne’s music and ideas.


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