Liz Phair

On this day in 1967, indie singer/songwriter Liz Phair was born in New

Haven, Conn. She was adopted by wealthy parents and raised in

Winnetka, Ill., near Chicago. She studied art at Ohio's Oberlin

College, where she learned to appreciate underground rock. She hung

around Chicago in the early '90s, where she made homemade records under

the name Girly Sound. While she supported herself selling her charcoal

drawings in Wicker Park, she befriended Urge Overkill and a young drummer

named Brad Wood, with whom she began recording. Her college mate,

guitarist Chris Brokaw, a member of the band Come, gave a copy of Phair's

tapes to his band's indie label, Matador Records.

Phair's 1993 debut, Exile in Guyville, featured accomplished,

confessional songs in the tradition of Joni Mitchell but with lyrics that were

tougher and sprinkled with four-letter words. Her original style was immediately

embraced by rock critics and she became one of the emerging stars of

alternative rock in America. The album's sparsely produced folk-rock --

produced by Wood -- owed a debt to the Rolling Stones, and Phair insisted that

its title was drawn from their classic, Exile On Main Street. It was

subsequently hailed by the major rock media as one of the best albums of the

year. On 1995's Whip-Smart, however, Phair seemed unable to

capitalize on the momentum of her debut. While the sophomore LP was better-

produced and received an incredibly large amount of media attention, it didn't

have the impact of Exile in Guyville. Although it sold well for an

independent release, the critics weren't as effusive as before, and Phair's stage

fright kept her out of the limelight. The singles

HREF=",_Liz/supernova.ram">"Supernova" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Jealousy" did, however, receive a good deal

of modern-rock radio airplay. Phair retreated further from music that year, when

she married Jim Staskausas, a film editor who worked on her videos. In the

summer, some of her early Girly Sound material was featured on

Juvenalia. In 1996, she contributed a song to the Stealing Beauty

soundtrack and began initial sessions for a third album -- with R.E.M. producer

Scott Litt -- which she later scrapped. She gave birth in December of that year

to her first child, James. In 1997, she participated in What's Up Matador,

a CD sampling the history of the label that included Phair's "Stuck On An

Island." In January 1998, she returned to the studio with Wood to work on her

next album, whitechocolatespaceegg. It is scheduled for release in June

and may include some tracks from her work with Litt.

Other birthdays: Roy Ralph Estrada (Mothers Of Invention), 55; Pete Shelly

(Buzzcocks), 43; and Matt Chamberlain (Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians),