“I knew what the character’s problem was, but I didn’t know how to get the listener involved. I wanted it to be from the point of view of a person who is abused. Now the problem that that person has is that they can’t say it. How do you involve the listener? Well you introduce yourself: “My name is Luka,” and so therefore you are engaging the listener. “I think you’ve seen me before,” so you start to listen. And then it proceeds to state the problem without ever saying what the problem is. There is a direct connection between me and the person that I am writing about. There was a boy named Luka but he was not abused. He’s probably shocked to death that I put him in this song. [In] the things that I’m writing about, I’m revealing some facet of my own life. With Luka I tried to write in the language of a child. Simple melodies, happy chords, but it was such a dark subject that that language made it work, made it accessible.”Suzanne Vega (427)
“I wanted to write about child abuse. I had been listening to Lou Reed a lot and I was impressed by the way he wrote about a violent world and I had to think of how to write about a subject that no one talks about. I guess I saw the name on this magazine of a boy who lived in my building down on 23rd Street, “Luka”. I finally met the boy one day. I saw this boy waiting for the elevator and I said, “Well, I don’t think I’ve seen you before, what’s your name?” He said, “My name is Luka, I live on the second floor, I live upstairs from you.” Since I lived on the ground floor I know he lived upstairs from me. Everyone lived upstairs from me. So I that’s how I slowly made my way into the angle of the song.”Suzanne Vega (1322)

Marlene On The Wall

“I did have a poster of Marlene Deitrich on the wall and yeah, that was a truthful song. The lines came out of my life.”Suzanne Vega (428)

Book Of Dreams

“”In my book of dreams” is a phrase, like “in my wildest dreams, in my imagination.” That’s the way I meant it. I didn’t mean it as in my journal where I put my dreams that I dream at night. “tired of Sleeping” is about night dreams. “Book of Dreams” is about day dreams and the future.”Suzanne Vega (429)

Men In A War

“I wanted to bring the comparison of violence to your body [the song revolves around the idea of a phantom limb – Ed]. Whether it happens through a war, or whether it happens through sexual violence. The woman in the song is experiencing sexual violence. Some people don’t get that, and they think she’s getting an abortion.”Suzanne Vega (430)
“The men in a war are really a metaphor for part of yourself that’s missing. The experience that the press comes back to most often is the one of the soldier who’s lost his limbs and yet can still feet what’s missing. Women don’t have that experience as often, of going into battle and losing parts of themselves physically. But they do have the experience of losing part of themselves spiritually, or being forced into a situation they don’t want to be in. A few people have asked me if it’s about an unwanted sexual experience, that’s kind of the woman’s parallel in the song, but it’s more about missing a part of yourself, whether it’s the actual thing, or your will, or your spirit, or your vision. I’ve never been in a war, I don’t know that experience, but I know what it feels like when part of you is missing, when you have to try and compensate for something.”Suzanne Vega (886)


“I wrote this song when I was 18 years old. I wrote this for a young man, it was my first summer romance and I knew that at the end of the summer he was going to go home to Liverpool and I would go home to New York City where I’m from. It seemed very tragic at the time so I wrote him this song as a gift and he, in turn, gave me his bandana.”Suzanne Vega (496)

Crack In The Wall

“It’s about the spiritual world that’s right beyond this material one and every so often we get a crack in the wall and we get to see what’s beyond and experience that. Sometimes it disappears and we go back to our more normal, humdrum lives and that’s what this is about.”Suzanne Vega (696)


“It’s a song about language and how it’s limited and how if it were liquid it would come and fill up all the spaces. As it is it’s too solid, not flexible enough. The music is really circular and beautiful and it all comes tumbling in. It’s as though the music fills up the spaces that the words can’t.”Suzanne Vega (887)

Left Of Center

“It’s about the Molly Ringwald character in the film [Pretty In Pink – Ed]. Molly plays a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who gets involved with a lot of richer people. The film centers on her high school prom – that’s the coming out dance American girls have when they’re 17. They have a corsage [bunch of flowers – Ed] and get dressed up and hope someone asks them to dance.”Suzanne Vega (888)

Those Whole Girls

“It began as an envious song, but I wanted to move away from that, towards a song about the way I wish I could be. But it starts with a slight envy of those people who don’t seem to be troubled by the things that trouble me. They just seem so together, in a literal sense they don’t seem to have any parts missing . . . they’re whole.”Suzanne Vega (886)

Institution Green

“Every institution you go into in America is painted a nauseating shade of green. My elementary school was that color, my high school was that color, just about every doctor’s waiting room is that color . . . unless you go private, then it’s peach. The idea came from being at the doctor’s and also in line to vote. I remember thinking it’s supposed to be this glorious thing you fight for, the right to vote, but it doesn’t feel very glamorous. Like there’s 50 million Vegas in New York and they can never find my name.”Suzanne Vega (886)


“What really occurred to me writing ‘Pilgrimage’ was that your life comes back again, not necessarily as another person or animal but more in a scientific way. I will not be myself in the future but I’ll be present in some degree, even if my body goes back into the earth and is dispersed.”Suzanne Vega (886)


“Paul [Mills, a street poet turned civil rights lawyer whom she finally consented to marry in 2005, twenty-three years after he first proposed – Ed] was someone who had impacted the flow of my life, and I had thought about him often. There had been songs about him on other albums, and a few songs that didn’t make it onto any album, so he was somebody who had lingered in my life in various ways. He came to New York once he realized I wasn’t seeing anybody. I had just broken off a relationship. He asked if I wanted to go ice skating and within two weeks he asked me to marry him again, and this time I said yes. It took twenty-three years to get from ‘I’ll think about it’ to saying yes! That was something that I had written to him a long time ago [the closing refrain of ‘I am bound to you forever’. – Ed]. He had kept it and he presented it to me when it became apparent we were going to see each other again. I had written the part that says, ‘I am bound to you forever’, in a Christmas card to him in 1982. He had kept it and presented it to me in 2005, almost as if to say, ‘Here, do you remember this?’ I was floored. I didn’t remember having written it. In the meantime he’d become an attorney, which I thought was very ironic. So he presented it to me as if to say, ‘Prove it’. And the funny thing was that even though I’d forgotten having written the words, I still felt the same way.”Suzanne Vega (889)

Tom’s Diner

“Tom’s Diner’ is actually called ‘Tom’s Restaurant’ and it’s located on 112th Street and Broadway in New York City, which is where I grew up. Back when I was a receptionist, I used to eat breakfast there before I took the subway down to work. So that’s where the idea for the song came.”Suzanne Vega (1263)
“This song is based on several mornings in Toms Restaurant on 112th Street and Broadway. It was one of the few places that was open all night so, if you were studying and you needed coffee, you could come here. For a while the song was even called Tom’s Restaurant and then I called it Diner because it just sounds so much better now. My name is in the menu of Tom’s diner but they’ve misspelled my name. That’s my glory that I get. It’s really a song about a person who is alienated from everyone. Alienated from the man behind the counter. Alienated from the woman who doesn’t really see him. So, the final straw was kind of this newspaper article. A very famous actor had died while he was drinking, as it says in the song. A tragic end to a somewhat tragic life. So, in a way it sort of kind of grounds the whole thing in a reality. There’s a line about a midnight picnic, “once upon a time, before the rain began”. That midnight picnic took place on the steps of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine at midnight. I think we ate actual sandwiches and probably drank a lot of wine because that’s what we did in those days. Me and Jack Hardy. Jack Hardy was a folk singer and kind of leader in the village.”Suzanne Vega (1316)