I am in Paris where I had job interview yesterday and will have another one on Monday. When I have a chance, I will write a little bit about job interviews and my reflections on siting on the other side of the table after years of asking the questions.
In any event, I just had the luxury of taking a long nap. When I woke up, I opened up the New York Times to find an article called “Surviving the Hits” by Suzanne Vega about the creation and success of “Luka“. Although Vega did attribute the song’s tone and musicality as contributing factors (and of course that all of the pieces fell into place), the song’s storyline about child abuse was key to its success.
Last year or so, when searching to compile my favorite 80s hits for my iPod, Vega’s songs “Left of Center“, “Tom’s Diner” (the same diner from Seinfeld), and “Luka” were top on my list — and yet I had never consciously been much of a Vega fan or had associated those three songs with her. As a matter of fact, until reading her article today, I had never even thought of “Luka” about child abuse. I suppose I always knew it was about abuse — probably about a girlfriend or wife being abused, but “abuse” per se is not what I believe gave the song its impact.
I think that what makes those three songs so memorable is that they are all about human loniless and alienation. Thinking of one’s self as “left of center” or as a mere observer as in “Tom’s Diner” are themes prevalent to the 80s and are what made the John Hughes movies so popular and emblematic for the time period. Afterall, Luka was like a John Hughes character, not popular or a protagonist, but like every other kid trying to get by and find their way — the one who feels like he is seen but not heard. That is what I believe rang so true about the song. Heck, I now recall that even my heavy metal college roommate Julio had Vega’s greatest hits.