Say It's Your Birthday: Tanya Donelly

Today is the birthday of singer Tanya Donelly, who was born in 1966 in Newport, R.I. Donelly and her stepsister Kristen Hersh, with their band the Throwing Muses, were some of most successful college/alternative musicians in the early '80s before the alternative and the mainstream came to be one and the same. Donelly and Hersh were also pioneers in the last decade's growth of female-led rock bands that articulated a specifically female point of view. Donelly, Hersh and friends Dave Narcizo and Elaine Adamedes formed the Throwing Muses while in high school, and their stripped-down, intense songs immediately set them apart from the bubble-pop that topped the charts in the first decade of MTV.

The band released its first recording, the EP Throwing Muses, in

1984 on the British label 4AD and was immediately embraced by the British rock press. In America, however, The Muses were slower to gain acceptance; 1989's Hunkpapa was the band's first album to receive widespread airplay, and 1991's The Real Ramona was its biggest American seller.

Donelly, who wrote sporadically for The Muses (Hersh penned most of the Muses catalogue), formed The Breeders with The Pixies' Kim Deal in 1990; Deal, however, took the lead in songwriting for that band.

In 1991, wishing to focus more on her own work, Donelly formed Belly with brothers Tom and Chris Gorman. By this time, the raw sound that marked The Breeders and the Muses was the rule for successful rock bands, and Donelly moved toward dream-like pop with Belly, songs she referred to as "fairy tales."

Although the Muses have become popular with a whole new audience in recent years, Belly's albums, 1993's Star and 1995's King were more successful than anything the Muses had done.

Donelly decided to go solo last year, and released an EP, Sliding and Diving, in England this past November. Her first solo album, Lovesongs For Underdogs, is due out in September.