Today is the 35th birthday of singer/songwriter/guitarist Emily Saliers, who,
along with her friend Amy Ray, compose the Indigo Girls, one of the most popular
folk-rock acts of the '90s.
Saliers is the softer, folkier member of the duo, while Ray leans toward Chrissie
Hynde-like aggression. The two have performed together since the early '80s, when
they began as the B-Band. They chose the name Indigo Girls in Atlanta in 1985. In 1986,
recorded an independent, eponymous EP and followed it the next year with
their debut LP, Strange Fire.
As Suzanne Vega and Tracy Chapman
exploded into the mainstream near the end of the '80s, female folk-rock
became hot again and the Indigos were ready. Epic Records released the
Indigo Girls' self-titled LP in 1989, featuring guest vocals by R.E.M.'s
Michael Stipe on "Kid Fears." The Indigos became a college-crowd hit with the
single "Closer to Fine," and they won a Grammy Award that year for Best Folk
The duo's next album, Nomads Indians Saints (1990), wasn't as popular as its
major-label debut . But 1992's Rites of Passage, which added marimbas and
fiddles to the group's sound, went platinum. The Indigos' next album, Swamp
Ophelia (1994), was even more popular and demonstrated the duo's loyal and
growing fanbase by debuting in the top 10.
After the live 1200 Curfews, Shaming of The Sun followed in 1997. By this
time, the Indigo Girls were a major part of rock music's folk revival, as demonstrated by
the major success of performers such as Sarah McLachlan, the organizer of the
extremely successful, female-fronted Lilith Fair tour, which debuted in 1997. The Indigo
Girls played numerous dates during the first Lilith and returned for this
year's edition of the tour.
The Indigo Girls had always been activists, standing up for gay rights,
Native American rights and other causes close to their hearts. In 1995 and
1997, the Indigos spearheaded the "Honor the Earth" tour, a series of
benefit shows that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Native
American grass-roots organizations. But Ray and Saliers' politics came to the
forefront this year when a number of shows they scheduled at high schools
and colleges were canceled by academic officials who objected to the
Indigo Girls' "foul" language on their "Shame on You" (RealAudio excerpt) track and to their
lesbianism. After students protested the cancellations, 13 teens from schools in South
Carolina and Tennessee were suspended.
"It is a blatant case of homophobia," Saliers said of one of the cancellations. "The show
was canceled because we are gay."
In response to the protests, the Indigo Girls rescheduled a free concert for
students in Columbia, S.C., where the first cancellation occurred.
Regarding their next album, the two plan on songs that are more political
than their earlier efforts but are undecided about the musical direction.
Saliers said: "I want to play electric guitar more than ever. I want to
Ray countered: "I'm looking at something really stripped-down, but if Emily
wants to rock out, she can. And if I want to do folk, she'll be there for
me. We're very lucky to have that with each other. And it works, too."
The Indigos just announced that they are planning an all-female, two-week tour
of 12 cities, dubbed the "Suffragette Session Tour." The club tour will
include Lisa Germano, Jane Siberry, Gail Ann Dorsey, Luscious Jackson's
Kate Schellenbach and others.
Other birthdays: George Clinton, 58; Estelle Bennett (Ronettes), 54; Richard Davies
(Supertramp), 54; Don Henley, 51; Keith Sweat, 37; and Pat Badger (Extreme),