The Space Lady, AKA Suzy Soundz, AKA Susan Dietrich began her street performance career right here on the streets and in the subway stations of Boston. Her sound is one of gentle psychedelic DIY transcendence. Made on a small casio treated through a delay pedal, her haunting warble soaring above. I’ll let the bio from her own myspace page tell the tale:
Finding a dilapidated, old accordion in a junk store was the major cause in turning Susan Dietrich’s life around. At the time, back in the early seventies when Richard Nixon was embroiled in the Watergate fiasco and the Vietnam war was still raging in Southeast Asia, she and her husband, Joel, and their tiny daughter were political exiles living like refugees in their own country, terrified that Joel would be imprisoned for having resisted the draft. For nine years they had subsisted on spare change and meager sales of their artwork on the streets of Boston. The discovery and purchase of that little squeeze-box inspired Susan to take it into battle, the war on their own personal poverty. Down into the dark, noisy subway stations of subterranean Boston she went, where she slowly learned to pick out simple, familiar tunes like Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and When Irish Eyes Are Shining. There must have been something rather quaintly charming about this thin little street waif literally singing for her supper, for in the very first hour she made twenty dollars in change plus a twenty dollar bill from an elderly couple wishing her well. She soon discovered that by playing from early morning rush hour through the entire day, she could pull in over eighty dollars, an impressive amount for the times and on the street, while Joel stayed home caring for the baby. The accordion was eventually retired in favor of the very first Casio keyboard released on the American market, a toy by today’s standards. But with Joel’s previous experience playing in various 60s rock bands, they plugged the Casio into a phase-shifter, mic-ed Susan’s voice through an echo unit, created a light show by wiring her tip box with twinkling lights, and crowned her with a winged helmet complete with a blinking red ball on top. She worked out arrangements for songs with other-worldly themes, such as Fly Me to the Moon, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Ghost Riders in the Sky, Radar Love and Major Tom. The response from the public was overwhelming. Suddenly she was being referred to as The Space Lady, and pictures of her began appearing in the papers and on TV. The cash flow became phenomenal; a cassette of space music soon followed (as did another baby), and the small family was finally able to return to San Francisco where Joel and Susan had met back in the glory days of Haight/Ashbury. Her music was received even more enthusiastically there, and she was flocked by people asking for interviews or requesting to make videos. To this day, 20-some years later, she still receives letters and emails from her fans from coast to coast and around the world. But she says the most valuable and treasured aspects of her career were those of personal growth: acquiring street smarts, becoming humble and compassionate, appreciating people from all walks of life, and discovering her talents and inner strengths, such as her lovely voice, her creativity, her originality, courage, tenacity, and her ability to find humor in the most difficult of situations. And she owes it all to that little Stomach Steinway found in a junk store back in Beantown, Massachusetts.