2010.10.13 Suzanne Vega hits Tecumseh

Written by David Green.


I went to the Suzanne Vega concert in Tecumseh last week. She was very kind, performing so many of the old songs that fans knew over the...

What’s that? Who is Suzanne Vega? you ask.

I expected that question. When I spoke with the person in the box office at the Tecumseh Center for the Arts, we both were amazed that she was coming to Tecumseh.

In my mind, she’s an enormous star, yet I knew that if I walked down the street and asked the first 25 people I met, probably no one would recognize the name.

“Widely regarded as one of the most brilliant songwriters of her generation….”

“She has given sold-out performances in many of the world’s best-known halls….”

And you’ve never heard of her.

So 97 percent of readers won’t know who I’m referring to, 2.9 percent would have some recollection with a little prompting. The final tenth of a percent would say, “Wow! In Tecumseh?”

The prompting would be this: “Tom’s Diner.” A catchy tune about sitting in a diner on the corner and watching people inside and outside. You’d probably recognize it.

Promp number two: “Luka.” Another song from 1987, this time about a child abuse victim. Not typical fare for a pop song, but it was a hit in the U.S. and Europe.

Prompt number three: “Caramel.” A little more obscure, but it did gain some popularity when it was used in the 1996 movie “The Truth About Cats and Dogs.”

So I bought a ticket for the seat at the edge of the second row in the middle section. The seller warned me that I would be unable to see the singer’s feet, but that didn’t seem to be of much consequence.

I shot some volleyball photos at the school Thursday and then drove to Tecumseh. I sat in the lobby for a while watching the crowd arrive and soon concluded that most of the people entering probably had never heard of Suzanne Vega. They bought season tickets for the art center’s 2010-11 entertainment series and this was the opening show.

As I was sitting down, the person in the next seat said, “You must be Mr. Green.” What? She ordered her ticket after I bought mine and the person in the box office told her she would be sitting next to a Mr. Green. That exchange never would have occurred in any of “the world’s best-known halls.”

At least she was a true fan. She was probably the age of my children, but she learned to love Suzanne Vega from her father. This youngster wasn’t even born when SV started her career.

It was really quite astounding to sit 10 yards from this person who previously existed only as a recorded voice.

An autograph session followed the concert, so when the music stopped, I headed to the lobby and got in line. SV arrived and began signing CDs and posters and even an album cover from her first record—vinyl, when CDs were still rather new.

I inched my way toward the table. I knew what I was going to do and say, but of course I got nervous. I dropped to my knees and plopped my right hand on the table. I had already drawn a line and made an X where she should sign.

She looked at it and said “OMG.” And then she signed it. I’m not sure exactly how I said it, but it was a version of this: “I don’t want to permanently possess you on paper. I’m just taking you home for the night and then facing the inevitable in the morning: You’ll fade away and disappear.”

She probably thought she had a nut on her hands, but then I told her what I meant to say first: “Thank you for filling so many years of my life with such wonderful arrangements of words and such beautiful music.”

She appeared truly grateful for the compliment. I was going to say more—how I could tell stories from my life as they relate to her songs—but I stood up and walked away.

The other fans had their signed CDs. I had a hand that was touched by Suzanne Vega.

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