Born to a mother who was a jazz guitarist, and a successful Hispanic novelist father, Vega grew up in New York City in the culturally rich district of Spanish Harlem. She attended the New York School of Performing Arts, the high school immortalized in the film, Fame, with the hope of becoming a dancer. But before she could fully explore that avenue, she decided to start playing her original folk songs at the same Greenwich Village coffee houses that launched the careers of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.
By the mid-1980s, she had hired a professional music management company and had a deal with A&M Records, who brought in Patti Smith's guitarist Lenny Kaye to co-produce. Her first album, released in 1985, received strong reviews but stalled commercially. It would be her second album, Solitude Standing, and the hit single, "Luka," that would launch her career globally.
After getting married to producer Mitchell Froom (Crowded House,