Born Myra Ellen Amos, the daughter of Reverend Edison Amos and Mary Ellen Amos, on August 22, 1963, in North Carolina. A piano prodigy from the beginning, playing by ear at age 2 1/2, and writing her own songs by age 4. By age 5, it's been said she could play anything on the piano after hearing it only once. She won a scholarship at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland, the youngest person ever to be admitted there. She always ran into trouble there, as they encouraged playing of classical music, but she also had an attraction to more popular music. She was kicked out at age 11.
I'd be invited to parties simply because I played the piano. I quickly realized that I had some kind of calling. But, just as quickly, I realized that what was most important to me was following my own path -- and not the one that was laid down by others.
She started playing clubs at the tender age of 13, accompanied by her father as a chaperone - after all, there were even a few gay bars mixed in there - this continued through high school. In 1977, she won a local (Montgomery Country, Massachussets) talent contest. In 1980, at the age of 17, she even released her first single, "Baltimore"/"Walking With You", on the MEA label (her initials). She received a citation from the mayor of Baltimore for the song.
After graduating (having even been Homecoming Queen one year), while taking some music classes at a local college, she performed at some hotels, both old standards, and some of her own material. She adopted the name Tori, also at the age of seventeen after a friend remarked that she looks like a Tori. "My parents call me Tori Ellen," she says, "which is really lovely."
In 1984, at the age of 21, she moved out on her own, to Hollywood. She played solo in clubs to earn money, and did a few television commercials (for Kellogg cereals, among others, having beat out Sarah Jessica Parker for a spot in a Corn Flakes commercial). The next year, in 1985, an audience member offered her a ride home after a show, which she accepted. The guy proceeded to rape her in the back of his car. This caused her to declare that "the girl and her piano are dead" - fortunately this wasn't permanent.
In 1987, she formed the pop band "Y Kant Tori Read", and signed under Atlantic Records. In May of 1988, the debut album was released, and proceeded to flop miserably. Even today, with Tori's success, Atlantic has kept this album out of publication, at Tori's request. "It was a different time; I was in a different place. Everything was over the top -- the high hair, everything. I was shopping at Retail Slut." Soon after she decided to go back to the girl and her piano. Then, in fall 1989, Atlantic gave her one more shot at doing an album. The next March, she gave them a tape of her songs, and received the go-ahead to start recording. They then later rejected the master tape, and she became even more determined.
In 1991, Tori saw the movie Thelma & Louise, which caused her to relive her rape, and as a reaction, she wrote Me And A Gun a few hours before a show, and performed it that night. In October of that year, it was released as a single. It was received well in England, and they decided to release her first album, Little Earthquakes, just in England. It debuted at #15 on the charts, and was quickly released in the US.
Her second album, Under the Pink, was released in 1994. During production, Atlantic Records wanted to bring in a new producer for the album. However, as she liked her producer, this did not please her - she threatened to burn her master tapes, and Atlantic relented, and ended up with another successful album. Soon after, she helped found R.A.I.N.N. - Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.
In December of 1995, she distributed her single Caught a Lite Sneeze over the internet, which was the first single by any artist to be distributed in that manner. The rest of the album Boys for Pele was released in 1996, which received notice for the simple fact that she was suckling a piglet on the cover, if nothing else. It received more notice by her parents - her father originally thought the song "Father Lucifer" was about him, and she was forced to explain that the song was derived from somewher else completely. "I was on an Ecstasy trip, Dad, and I had an affair with Lucifer and Jesus -- so don't worry about it."
Late in 1996, she discovered she was pregnant, by Mark Hawley, one of the sound engineers of her Dew Drop Inn Tour. But two days before Christmas, she suffered a miscarriage, only three months into the pregnancy. The miscarriage provided the focus for a new set of songs, which became From The Choirgirl Hotel, her first album recorded with other musicians there live, going past the girl and her piano sound.
The songs started coming not long after I miscarried. The strange thing is, the love doesn't go away for this being that you've carried. You can't go back to being the person you were before you carried life. And yet you're not a mother, either, and you still are connected to a force, a being. And I was trying to find ways to keep that communication going. Along the way on the search, sort of walking with the undead, I would run into these songs. The one thing they kept saying to me was I had to find a deep woman's rhythm. You begin to create where you can. If you can't create physical life, you find a life force. If that's in music, that's in music. I started to find this deep, primitive rhythm, and I started to move to it. And I held hands with sorrow, and I danced with her, and we giggled a bit. And this record really became about being alive enough to feel things, no matter what that is.
In February 1998, she was married to Mark, in a small ceremony at the Church of St Lawrence in West Wycombe, England. Her father was there to give her away - which was a suprise to some, as the two have had a rocky relationship at times. Tori wore an ice blue dress, downright gorgeous, and the couple left in a horse-drawn carriage at the end.
On September 5, 2000, Tori gave birth to her daughter, Natashya Lórien Hawley. weighing 7 lbs 1 oz, and measuring 21 inches at birth. Her middle name, Lórien, is derived from the Vala of the same name from J.R.R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings.
In 2001, Tori's sixth album, Strange Little Girls, was released. It consists of 12 covers of various songs, all originally written by men about women.
2002 saw the release of her seventh album, Scarlet's Walk, released at the end of October. Some of the songs on the album come from stories that one set of her grandparents, who were eastern Cherokee, used to tell her as a child. Others were a result of, or at least influenced by, the events on September 11, 2001.
Tori is well known for her extremely dedicated fans, Toriphiles, and the net fans Tori herself has nicknamed Ears With Feet. A group of these fans are due to her song, Me And A Gun, which has helped a number deal with their own rapes. Michael Stipe, from R.E.M., even once remarked to Tori, "Hey, can I borrow your audience?"
Two of her primary influences were Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell, and they're probably the closest to her mix of Alternative/Rock sound. She is well known for her very enigmatic lyrics, especially on the newer albums. She's often said that she likes to challenge the fans, and knows they like it when she does, and the moment she fails to do that she'll lose a lot of those people.
Oh, and if you ever feel the need to mail Tori anything - make it Hello Kitty stickers - they're an addiction of hers, which she manages to pretend at times are for her daughter.
Recently, Spin magazine asked a number of artists to list their top five favorite albums or singles. Tori's responses?
- Manu Chao, Proxima Estacion: Esperanza
- Basement Jaxx, Rooty
- Daft Punk, Discovery
- Placebo, Black Market Music
- Groove Armada, Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub)
Discography (albums only; incomplete!):
Absolute Divas - Tori Amos Biography, http://www.absolutedivas.com/tori/biography.shtml
Tori Amos Discography, http://www.discographynet.com/amos/amos.html
"33 Things You Should Know About Tori Amos", Blender Magazine, Nov. 2002