Indigo Girls, The

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Indigo Girls, The

Indigo Girls, The, latter-day folk rock stars (f. ca. 1989, Atlanta) Membership: Amy Ray, gtr., voc. (b. Atlanta, April 12, 1964); Emily Saliers, gtr., voc. (b. New Haven, Conn., July 22, 1963). Although they had known each other since grade school, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers first started singing together in the choir at their high school, before forming a folk rock duo. Starting as Saliers and Ray, then the B-Band, they started playing coffee houses and bar open mike nights. By 1981, they were playing often enough that they recorded a tape (as the B-Band) called Tuesday’s Children.Upon graduation from high school, they went their separate ways, only to find that they missed Atlanta and each other. They both enrolled at Emory and started playing together again. They started calling themselves the Indigo Girls, Amy having picked the word out of the dictionary. They put out several independent recordings, sold at shows, including a single of “Crazy Came” and “Everybody’s Waiting,” a cassette called Blue Food, a six-track EP featuring local musicians like Michelle Malone, and finally a full length album, Strange Fire.From the start, the two formed a yin and yang symbiosis, with Ray creating more direct and rocking tunes countered by Saliers more considered, folk-oriented compositions. They also created some of the most stunning two part harmonies to grace pop music.

With the success of artists like Tracy Chapman and 10, 000 Maniacs, The Indigo Girls were signed to Epic records in 1988. Their self-titled debut album cast them as part of the burgeoning Athens, Goergia, scene as well, with Michael Stipe singing on the tune “Kid Fears.” Their first single, “Closer to Fine,” peaked at #52 and the album climbed to #22. Epic next re-released a somewhat edited version of Strange Fire, which eventually went gold. At the 1989 Grammy Awards, the duo took home the statuette for Best Contemporary Folk Recording. Eventually, the record went double platinum.

The Girls put out their sophomore effort Nomads*Indians*Saints in the fall of 1990. This album featured such notable performers as Mary Chapin Carpenter and Gang of Four bassist Sara Lee. The album went gold without the benefit of much airplay but with frequent touring. About seven months later, they put out the live EP Back on the Bus, Y’all.Their next studio album, 1992’s Rites of Passage, featured such stellar guests as Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Budgie (from Siouxsie and the Banshees) and The Roches. It debuted at its chart peak of #22, and sold gold. Once again, they followed this with vigorous touring. They took time out, however, to appear in the film Boys on the Side and put a tune on the soundtrack of Philadelphia.With all that behind them, their spring of 1994 release, Swamp Ophelia, entered the charts at #9, going gold less than two months later. It eventually went platinum.

In the mid 1990s, Ray and Saliers took some time off from the unrelenting pace they set for themselves for much of the previous decade. They took part in an Atlanta stage run of the show Jesus Christ Superstar with Saliers playing Mary Magdalene and Ray taking the role of Jesus. The cast album came out on Ray’s label, Daemon Records, which she had started several years earlier as a not-for-profit placeto release local bands and other favorites. In the meantime, a greatest hits record called 4.5 was released everywhere but the U.S., bringing other territories up to speed with the duo. They followed that with a full length live album, 1200 Curfews. It included performances from their entire career, including a track from their B-Band days. The album went gold.

The Indigo Girls went back into the studio during the fall of 1996 and put out their rockingest record to date, Shaming the Sun, in the spring of 1997. In addition to Lee, the album featured two local Daemon bands, Smoke and The Rock-a-Teens.The album debuted at #7. They took the album on the road, playing the Lilith Fair and headlining dates. Before the release of their 1999 record Come on Now Social, they duo released the song “Peace Tonight” on the World Wide Web, making it available on the Internet music site The album featured guest appearances by such notable women performers as Joan Osbourne, Sheryl Crow, Kate Schellenbach from the band Luscious Jackson, and Me’Shell N’degeocello, along with members of Sinead O’Connor’s touring band and Garth Hudson and Rick Danko of The Band.


Strange Fire (1987); Indigo Girls (1989); Nomads Indians Saints (1990); Live: Back on the Bus Y’all (1991); Rites of Passage (1992); Swamp Ophelia (1994); 2200 Curfews (live; 1995); Touch Me Fall (1995); Shaming of the Sun (1997); Come on Now Social (1999).

—Hank Bordowitz