Indigo Girls' Emily Saliers

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,

the pair

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

Recording.

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

rock out."

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),

31.