Born Myra Ellen Amos, the daughter of Reverend Edison Amos and Mary Ellen Amos, on August 22, 1963, in Newton, North Carolina. She was a piano prodigy from the beginning, playing by ear at age 2 1/2, and writing her own songs by age 4. It's been said that by age 5, 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 often ran into trouble there, as they discouraged her from composing her own music. She was kicked out at age 11 for playing classic rock tunes from Led Zeppelin and The Beatles by ear, which the institute deemed unacceptable.
She started playing clubs at the age of 13, accompanied by her father as a chaperone, which continued through high school. In 1977, she won a local (Montgomery County, Maryland) 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.
She adopted the name Tori, also at the age of 17, after a friend remarked that she looked like a Tori (japanese word for "bird"). After graduating from high school, she performed at hotels (both old standards and some of her own material) while taking some music classes at a local college.
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.
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. 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 later rejected the master tape, and she became even more determined.
In 1991 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 the UK, and Atlantic decided to release her first album, Little Earthquakes
, there. It debuted at #15 on the charts and was quickly followed up by a release 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, and she threatened to burn her master tapes. 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. 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 somewhere else completely. "No! I was taking drugs with a South American shaman and I really did visit the Devil and I had a journey."
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 joining her 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 released To Venus and Back
in 1999, her first double album. The first disc, subtitled "Venus: Orbiting" is a more experimental approach to a electronic sounds and contained fresh studio material, while the second disc, "Venus Live: Still Orbiting", claimed to capture some of the magic from her live performances.
On September 5, 2000, Tori gave birth to her daughter, Natashya Lórien Hawley.
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.
In 2003, Tori released Tales of a Librarian
, a greatest hits collection for which she revisited many of her favorite songs as well as adding a few new songs for her fans.
2005 presented her fans with The Beekeeper
, a somewhat more accessible album than some of her earlier work. In conjunction with the album, Amos released an autobiography entitled Piece by Piece in February 2005; co-authored by rock music journalist Ann Powers, it delves deeply into Amos’ obsession with mythology and religion. It explores her songwriting process while telling the story of her progression into fame.
During 2005, Amos negotiated a contract with the Warner Bros. reissue imprint Rhino to release a string of reissues and compilations. The first release of the deal was the two-disc DVD set Fade to Red: The Video Collection in February 2006, which contained all but three of Amos' solo music videos, as well as behind-the-scenes footage and commentary. The contract continued in September 2006 with the release of the career-spanning five-disc box set A Piano: The Collection, celebrating Tori's 15-year solo career. The set includes various album songs, singles, remixes, alternate mixes, demos, outtakes, and a string of unreleased songs from album sessions - "Ode to My Clothes," "Peeping Tommi," "Not David Bowie," "Dolphin Song," and the much-mythologised "Zero Point," which Tori mentioned in interviews as well as the liner notes to 1999's To Venus and Back. The collection is lavishly packaged to resemble a piano keyboard.
On May 1st, 2007, her twenty-three track, ninth studio album, American Doll Posse
, was released and the ensuing tour began on May 28 in Rome, Italy. The album introduces five characters, or "dolls", based on Greek mythology and a reflection themselves of women and Tori's own personality.
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 many deal with their own rapes. Michael Stipe, from R.E.M.
, once even remarked to Tori, "Hey, can I borrow your audience?"
One of her primary influences is Joni Mitchell
. Another is Kate Bush. 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. Listen at Last.fm