Top 10 Tanya Donnelly Songs

Tanya Donnelly Songs

Our Tanya Donnelly Songs list presents the best Tanya Donnelly Songs like”Life is but a Dream,” ” Pretty Deep,” “My Life as a Ghost” and many more. Fans of Throwing Muses may recognize Tanya Donelly as one of the co-founders, along with her stepsister, Kristin Hersh. Born on July 14, 1966, in Newport, Rhode Island, Donelly was often traveling between this state and California for the first four years. This led to early school experiences that had Donelly worry about the opinions of her fellow classmates due to having parents having a hippie background. When she first met Kristin Hersh, she was eight years old. Donelly’s father married Hersh’s mother. It didn’t take long for Donelly and Hersh to form a friendship, even before becoming family.

Originally raised as an atheist, Donelly’s belief system was challenged after her mother was injured in a traumatic car accident when she was twelve years old. It was enough for her to look into Hindu Krishna practices. She also credited songwriting genius, Leonard Cohen as a personal hero that played a huge role in her interest to become a recording artist herself. She also credited the Beatles and Marc Ribot as key influences that gave her cause to pick up and learn the guitar.

Musical Musings

As teenagers, Donelly’s father gave her and Hersh their own guitars and the two ladies began to play Beatles songs together. Later, the two began to play with Hersh’s father before starting to write original music of their own. The two founded Throwing Muses, along with Elaine Adamedes, when they were fifteen years old. At the time, Hersh was the leader and the group moved from Rhode Island to Boston, Massachusetts in 1986 to sign a record deal with the British label 4D.

Along the way, Donelly realized her musical style started to differ from Hersh’s, which led to Donnelly opting out of the band in 1989 so she could start up The Breeders with Kim deal of the Pixies. She then fronted her own band, Belly, in 1991. It was while with this group she earned national fame for the composition behind “Feed the Tree.”

Donelly’s success with Belly earned her Grammy Award nominations in 1994, thanks to “Feed the Tree” and its album, Star. In 1995, Belly released another, King, before breaking up in 1996. It would be at this time Donelly embarked on a solo career that started with the 1995 release of “Judy Staring at the Sun.” Technically, this was a collaborated performance with Catherine Wheel’s Rob Dickinson. The single version was released with the two vocalists singing off each other while the album, Happy Days, saw to it most of Donelly’s vocal performance was removed. In her place as a vocalist was Dickinson, as demanded by Catherine Wheel’s record label.

Going Solo

In 1996, Donelly assembled a group of musicians to embark on an international tour with. This took place just before she released her first EP as a solo artist, Sliding & Diving. This was followed by Pretty Deep in 1997. Her debut album was Lovesongs for Underdogs. These recordings were followed by additional EPs and full-length albums. In total, Donelly has four studio albums to her credit as a solo artist, along with thirteen EPs.

Also in 1996, Donelly married former Juliana Hatfield bassist Dean Fisher. Fisher was with her while touring internationally, as well as across America, performing alongside her throughout.

Over time, Donnelly’s songwriting continued to soften as her Belly days were put behind her. Now performing as a wife and mother, her musical material leaned more in favor of folk-pop instead of post-punk. She did, however, perform in 2004 with Mission of Burma, a post-punk band that featured Donelly as a backing vocalist for their reunion album, Onnoffon.

Reunions and Collaborations

In 2000, Donelly’s first reunion with Throwing Muses took place when the group performed live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, then again at a Rhode Island festival. She also served as a backing vocalist for the group’s own reunion album.

Going into 2006, Donelly performed two songs for the debut EP of Boston-based band Dylan In The Movies. She continued to work with them as a performer and songwriter, off and on, going into 2013. In addition to working with other recording artists, she also wrote music for the all-girl pop group, Girl Authority. Her contribution helped the band put together the 2007 album, Road Trip.

Although Donelly announced in 2013 that she was performing a collection of EPs as part of an exit strategy to retire from the music industry, she did recently compose the musical score behind the 2022 animation flick, Luck. She also reunited with Belly in 2013 which resulted in the 2018 release of Dove. It was the first recording the band released since breaking up in 1996.

In 2020, Tanya Donelly released an EP, Tanya Donelly and the Parkington Sisters, a recording that featured songs previously recorded by legends such as Leonard Cohen and Linda Rondstadt.

Tanya Donelly Legacy

Regarded as New England’s consummate indie musician, Tanya Donelly was an artist whose vision defined the alternative music era. Since her Throwing Muses days in 1981, she created music that was challenging and engaging with the off-best tempos and stark lyrics. From there, she moved on to form The Breeders in 1989 before forming Belly in 1991. While with Belly, 1993’s Star became a certified gold album by the Recording Industry Association of America.

When she went solo in 1996, Donelly’s musical tastes shifted to reflect her new life which included becoming a wife and mother. This also had her spend more time with family as she, along with her husband, raised their two daughters.

Top 10 Tanya Donnelly Songs

#10 – Josie and the Pussycats (featuring Juliana Hatfield)

In 1995, Tanya Donelly and Juliana Hatfield covered “Josie and the Pussycats” for the 1995 tribute album Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits. Produced by MCA Records, this song was performed to pay homage to the popular cartoon series that aired on national television for the 1970-71 season. It inspired a real-life all-girl group, Josie and the Pussycats, who originally recorded and released this song, plus five others, in 1970 and 1971. Fans of the original Charlie’s Angels all-woman detective series are likely to recognize Cheryl Ladd as one of the three female vocalists.

While “Josie and the Pussycats” may not stand out as a hit single, the cartoon and the group became a big part of American pop culture as it trekked into the 1970s and all the influential styles that came from it. Donelly’s performance as she teamed up with Juliana Hatfield made her a PURR-fect retrofit to a cult classic.

#9 – Heart of Gold

Already, Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” is an iconic number performed by a legendary recording artist. Tanya Donelly’s cover performance of this single was beautifully sung as a piece that simply had a woman’s touch that made this song feel just as special. This was her contribution to the American Laundromat Records benefit CD, Cinnamon Girl – Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity. This was a 2006 release that had the proceeds go towards breast cancer research and awareness.

#8 – Lovecats (featuring Dylan In The Movies)

The Cure’s “Lovecats” was a 1983 hit single that was covered by Dylan In The Movies and Tanya Donelly in 2008. It was their contribution to the tribute compilation, Just Like Heaven – A Tribute to The Cure, which was produced by American Laundromat Records. This lovable tune was just too PURR-fect to ignore, especially when Donelly jumped in with her easily identifiable vocals, playing off the band’s playful cover of The Cure’s classic.

The original inspiration behind the song came from the reality of how horrible cats are treated by certain members of society who have little regard for one of the animal kingdom’s most innocent and vulnerable creatures. Although Donelly and Dylan In The Movies recorded The Cure’s single as a cover song to pay tribute, their version was nothing short of amazing, especially among cat fans who are in agreement all life is precious.

#7 – Girl With the Black Tights (featuring Dylan In The Movies)

In 2010, “Girl With the Black Tights” was a song that featured Dylan In The Movies and Tanya Donelly teaming up again as performers. The opening acoustic guitar led into an easy listening number that makes this song especially enjoyable as part of a highway tunes tracklist. Part of the highlight of “Girl With the Black Tights” was the hints of Lemonheads’ “It’s A Shame About Ray” that echoed from the height of that group’s musical era.

#6 – The Night You Saved My Life

Beautysleep‘s “The Night You Saved My Life” revealed a serenity from what was clearly a happily married Tanya Donelly. If there was ever that perfect song to play for Valentine’s Day or as a musical thank-you to that significant other, this is it. This was one of the cheeriest songs coming from Donelly’s musical portfolio as a solo artist.

#5 – Another Moment

The formula Tanya Donelly used in Belly was delightfully shown in “Another Moment” as a sweet and spooky number that had a more grounded performance. This, along with the rest of the tracks from Beautysleep, showed a more mature side to Donelly that treated the fans to a solo artist that was truly making her way as an evolving musician. There was a somewhat haunted feel to this song as a soul-searching number.

#4- My Life as a Ghost

On radio stations and streaming sites, “My Life as a Ghost” remains one of Tanya Donelly’s most popular tunes. From the album, Whiskey Tango Ghosts, this 2004 recording marked the influence of a horrible war, horrible administration, and a bleak, mean winter season. This was a quote she made when it came to describing the music featured in this recording. “My Life as a Ghost” was a reflective song that expressed Donelly’s sensitivities as an artist and as a person. The mix of country and folk dominated this song, as well as the whole album. The quirkiness behind Donelly’s lyrics is what made her a fan favorite ever since Throwing Muses.

#3 – Life is but a Dream (featuring Mark Sandman)

“Life is but a Dream” became one of Tanya Donelly’s signature songs since going solo in 1996. Coming from the album, Beautysleep, this song was an eerie and hypnotic duet that served as so much more than the recording’s top highlight. As a performer, this was Donelly at her best. Straight from the beginning, the heartbeat-like instrumental laid out a song that had Donelly’s quirkiness as a songwriter burst forth as a dreamy number that could also trance the listener into a meditative state.

#2 – Pretty Deep

“Pretty Deep” was the lead track from Tanya Donelly’s debut album as a solo artist, Lovesongs for Underdogs. Released in 1997, this song was a number fifty-five hit on the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart. Pieces of her Belly past were still evident in this song as a pop number but also showed the softer side of a recording artist that was well on her way to developing her own style that won over a new set of fans that appreciated the folksy side of Donelly coming out.

#1 – The Bright Light

On the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart, “The Bright Light” peaked as high as number sixty-five. Albeit a modest hit on the charts, this was Tanya Donelly at her best as a musician that chose to follow her own path as an artist instead of sticking with Belly’s musical formula. What Donelly did for this song, as well as the album Lovesongs for Underdogs was giving a folk-pop flair to material that became easy favorites among a fan base who share an appreciation for simpler music styles.

Feature Photo: Greg Neate from Sussex, UK, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Top 10 Tanya Donnelly Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022

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