I’m surprised the consensus in the comments on the official video on Youtubeof “Luka” is sure this song is about child abuse. I always thought it was about spousal abuse. Maybe the SD can enlighten me. Why would so many be so sure this song is about child abuse? Personally, I don’t see why it can’t be both. Is there some clue I missed in the lyrics that makes it clear one way or the other? Your thoughts?
Did you watch the video you linked to? There’s a dark-haired boy all through it. It seems like a reasonable assumption that his name is Luka.
I agree that the lyrics don’t rule out spouse abuse.
If this cite is accurate Suzanne Vega was pretty clear she meant it to be about an abused child.
For what it’s worth, I was abused as a child and I immediately understood the song’s meaning, though I’ve never seen the video.
I see several lyrical indications that it’s parental abuse:
One is the use of the word “they” in the “They only hit until you cry” line. If it were intended to be interpreted as spousal, I’d expect “He only hits until you cry” in its place.
The second is about talking too loud and being clumsy.
Abused children try to fly below the radar of their abuser and often don’t know why or how they’ve set their parents off. In desperation to understand, they blame themselves and invent reasons. A battered spouse will tend to do the same, but I would expect them to find different reasons in the search for understanding and might be more likely to call themselves stupid or ugly than loud and clumsy.
The third is the desire to be alone. All I wanted as a kid was to be alone.
Writing this has made me wonder about Susan Vega’s own childhood. She writes with a certain amount of insight and understanding though it is more articulate than an abused kid would be. If I’d read the lyrics as poetry at age 13 in the worst year of my life, I don’t know that I’d, even then, have understood it though it’s terribly obvious right now.
I did post on this forum one time about my childhood and you could look that up if you ever cared to. Short version - my dad had a bad temper and later scared himself straight. We’re okay now and I think he carries more long term scars than I do.
Luka sounds like a little boy’s name; ergo, it’s about a child.
For what it’s worth, when we were teenagers, my best friend and I thought it was about lycanthropy.
Having fortunately experience with neither child nor spousal abuse, I assumed the latter when the song came out. I can make myself hear it as child abuse, and I know the intention, but I think the spouse abuse perspective has been ingrained in my brain too long to change.
Suzanne Vega sang it, I always assumed it was an abusive husband/boyfriend song. I know the video included ab little boy. I know Suzanne Vega said it was about child abuse. But I always assumed it was about the abstract concept of women in abusive relationships. Seriously, what little kid show up, at their new neighbor’s door. “Excuse me, hi, my name is Luca … yes we have met, yes, regarding the noise, you didn’t bring it up, but I’d like you to just let it go, its easier this way.”
“Oh, sure, kid, seems like a good idea.”
This is why I always like the song, Self Esteem, by The Offspring. Some guy belts out a song about how he’s just used and abused by his girlfriend. She shows up, drunk, again, and looking to score. Meh, what’s a guy gonna do, say no? No need for an Oprah special talk into the camera, no need to send money to any group, that’s just stuff that happens.
Suzanne Vega on the origin of “Luka”:
As an aside, it always chafes me a little bit whenever people assume a writer writing about abuse & tragedy must have experienced that in real life. Writers do have an imagination, you know.
Man, what was it about 1987 and catchy child abuse songs?
There’s a difference between assuming and wondering. True, many singers can write about things that are not auto or semi-autobiographical. It is also true that some singers are Alanis Morrisette.
I don’t have a cite at hand but I read once where Vega said that Luka was about an abused child but, if it made people think about spousal abuse (or any domestic abuse, really) instead, then she was satisfied. So I suppose it’s really about “abuse” more so than any specific type despite Luka being a child.
When I was younger, I always assumed Luka was a battered wife but mainly because I had only heard the “walked into the door” trope applied to women.
They were inspired by this somewhat earlier song?
I remember when the song came out and always thought it was about child abuse.
I first heard it when it was new on the radio and thought it was about spousal abuse. But I read pretty early on that the intention was child abuse.
I assumed child abuse from the beginning, because of the child-like voice (yeah, I know she always kind of sounds like that) and phrasing. The only thing was, I had never heard the name Luka before, and because of the -a ending it was a while before I knew the narrator was a little boy.
Or this one?
I always though at the time, with nothing to go by but the words on the radio, decades before YouTube was even imagined as an imprinter of public perception, that it was about spousal abuse.