Writer(s): -- (see lyrics here)
First Charted: May 23, 1987
Peak: 3 US, 4 CB, 3 RR, 3 AC, 15 AR, 1 CO, 23 UK, 5 CN, 21 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): --
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 59.8 video, 59.8 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
The ‘80s and ‘90s saw the rise of female singers rooted in folk and alternative rock such as Tracy Chapman, Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls, Sheryl Crow, and Sarah McLachlan. They were all preceded, however, by Suzanne Vega who gained a following first at college radio, but eventually on the pop charts.
She released her self-titled debut in 1985. It didn’t gain a lot of attention in the United States, although it reached #11 in the UK and generated a #21 hit with the song “Marlene on the Wall.” She gained more attention with the track “Left of Center” from the Pretty in Pink soundtrack the next year.
Her follow-up album found much more success, reaching #2 in the UK and #11 in the United States, largely on the strength of her top-5 hit “Luka.” The song, which was actually written before her debut album, SF was nominated for Grammys for Record and Song of the Year. It featured backing vocals by Shawn Colvin, another folk/alternative rock female singer who would rise to acclaim and commercial success in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
The song is about a boy who is abused and forbidden to talk about it. Vega based the song on a real boy named Luka who she would see playing with other children in front of her building. He really did live upstairs from her and she met him one day in the elevator. SF She said, “I didn’t know much about him, but he just seemed set apart from these other children…In the song, the boy Luka is an abused child – in real life I don’t think he was. I think he was just different.” WK
First posted 8/8/2022; last updated 9/22/2022.