I was in the car this morning when I heard a blast from my past, “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega.  I’ll never forget when I first heard that song on the radio, I was in middle school, and I was captivated.  It was the first time I’d ever heard a song with lyrics that didn’t rhyme.  I know that’s incredibly random, but it blew my 13 year old mind.  I bought the “cassingle” (to the uninitiated, that’s a single on a cassette, see what they did there?), the cover was black and white, very spare and simple.  Shortly thereafter, I had a North Carolina history project assigned (I’m a native of the Tarheel State) and I decided to write a song about The Lost Colony to the tune of “Tom’s Diner.”  Did the lyrics rhyme? Absolutely not.

Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega is a folk singer/songwriter from NYC who first became popular in the late 80’s/early 90’s.  She told a variety of stories in her delicate and breathy voice, some of which addressed really heavy subject matter; her song “Luka” (Hi my name is Luka/I live on the second floor/I live upstairs from you/Yes I think you’ve seen me before) is a narrative about child abuse.  “Tom’s Diner” isn’t quite so serious, about observations from a girl who stops into a coffee shop, and as I pointed out earlier, the lyrics don’t rhyme:

I am sitting
In the morning
At the diner
On the corner
I am waiting
At the counter
For the man
To pour the coffee
And he fills it
Only halfway
And before
I even argue

He is looking
Out the window
At somebody
Coming in

“It is always
Nice to see you”
Says the man
Behind the counter

To the woman
Who has come in
She is shaking
Her umbrella

And I look
The other way
As they are kissing
Their hellos

I’m pretending
Not to see them
I pour the milk

I open
Up the paper
There’s a story
Of an actor

Who had died
While he was drinking
It was no one
I had heard of

And I’m turning
To the horoscope
And looking
For the funnies

When I’m feeling
Someone watching me
And so
I raise my head

There’s a woman
On the outside
Looking inside
Does she see me?

No she does not
Really see me
Cause she sees
Her own reflection

And I’m trying
Not to notice
That she’s hitching
Up her skirt

And while she’s
Straightening her stockings
Her hair
Has gotten wet

Oh, this rain
It will continue
Through the morning
As I’m listening

To the bells
Of the cathedral
I am thinking
Of your voice…

And of the midnight picnic
Once upon a time
Before the rain began…

I finish up my coffee
It’s time to catch the train

It was only recently that I learned that the song I came to know and love was actually a DNA remix of the original song.   You can listen to it here….enjoy it!



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