Song Of The Week: “Tom’s Diner” by DNA featuring Suzanne Vega

dna-featuring-suzanne-vega-toms-diner-remix-1990Sometimes it pays not to prosecute.

In 1987, Suzanne Vega scored a fluke Top 5 hit with “Luka,” the first single from her second album, Solitude Standing. I don’t mean to impugn the song by calling it a fluke, it’s just that folky, politely poppy songs about child abuse don’t normally get played on the radio and sell a million copies, especially during the super frothy 80s. With her artsy, coffeehouse vibe, it was unlikely Vega would ever strike the Top 40 again. And, with one notable exception, she didn’t.

In 1990, an anonymous UK production duo known as DNA saved Suzanne Vega from one-hit wonderdom. And she didn’t even know about it. Let me explain.

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

suzanne vega1990DNA took the opening track from Solitude Standing — a speak-singing acapella number about an actual morning Vega spent at Tom’s Restaurant in New York City — and added a dance beat, keyboards, and horns. They titled the remix “Oh Suzanne” and quietly released it as a limited single, intended only for dance clubs. Two small problems with this scenario: 1.) they never asked for permission to use the song, and 2.) it started to become popular.

The remix eventually came to the attention of Vega’s record label, A&M, who could have issued a cease and desist order or even sued for damages. Luckily, all parties involved — including Suzanne — loved the track, which A&M re-released to a wider audience under its original name, “Tom’s Diner,” with Vega’s name listed as the featured artist.

The single became Vega’s second Top 5 hit. Although she never reached the charts again, she has remained a popular artist, especially in the UK.

So grab a cup of coffee, pour the milk, and good luck getting this one out of your head.

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