Suzanne Vega's career as a singer-songwriter has reached the 20-year mark with a series of introspective and often adventurous albums that have been well-received by critics and listeners, but she is perhaps best remembered for her 1987 No. 2 hit "Luka," which still gives birth to discussion as to whether its subject is spousal or child abuse. After gaining notoriety on the Greenwich Village club scene, Vega made her debut with a self-titled 1985 album at a time when an acoustic-based artist -- even one so impeccably produced (in Vega's case, by Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye and Steve Addabbo) -- was a rare thing on a major label (A&M). While not a massive hit, her debut album achieved solid success with the college crowd, which embraced such tracks as "Marlene on the Wall" and "Some Journey." Vega cemented her reputation by touring, and by the end of '85, she had debuted "Luka" onstage.
Kaye and Addabbo returned for Solitude Standing, released two years after the debut. They set "Luka" in a shimmering, radio-ready frame that broadcasters took to immediately, and the album eventually went platinum. (Interestingly, the LP was an early credit in singer/writer Shawn Colvin's discography; the author of "Sunny Came Home" contributed backing vocals.) Vega's next album, 1990's Days of Open Hand, wasn't as big a seller as Solitude Standing. But in one of the flukes that makes the record industry such a rich pageant for observers, Vega scored another radio hit when British dance-music production team DNA provided the a cappella Solitude opener "Tom's Diner" with a bopping track. An international smash, the single led to an entire CD of related remakes. The new musical context provided by DNA may have encouraged Vega's own experimental tendencies, which surfaced most compellingly on 1992's 99.9F, produced by then-husband Mitchell Froom (Los Lobos, Crowded House). Froom also produced 1996's Nine Objects of Desire. Tried and True, a "best of" collection, appeared in 1999, and Songs in Red and Gray, her first work after her divorce from Froom, was released in 2001. Vega responded to the September 11 attacks -- in which her brother Tim might have been killed had he not called in sick that day -- with the Vigil Project, which issued a disc that included songs by Vega, Christine Lavin, Jack Hardy and many others.