Saturday, July 28, 2007

So I show you some more, and I learn.

I was sixteen when I first heard Tori Amos's "Jackie's Strength" on the radio in my aunt's old Mercedes (which I now own) parked at a gas station.

I had been playing the piano for eight years and was starting to experiment with my own style; coming up with tunes and cheesy lyrics. I wasn't sure which way to push in terms of my style. I mostly listened to radio-esque music, favoriting the poppiest charts and mainstream styles, but I didn't feel any of it when I sat at the piano. It felt wrong and out of place to bang a major chord for a million bars while belting out "i love you, come back to me, you're the best, i'm so sad" and cheese of the same ilk.

But here was piano on the radio. I didn't know who she was, but she was strong for not buying into the silky pop tones that laced most artist's voices (or, if they didn't come prepackaged with the sound, they were given it in the computer lab) and when the strings came in over the chorus, I was hooked. My aunt returned to the car and I asked her at the end of the song if she knew who the artist was. She told me and smiled. She said she thought I'd like her, and then she bought me her album for my birthday.

I didn't listen to it very much right away. But I remember needing something to listen to while I painted my new room. I put From the Choirgirl Hotel on as I painted and began to memorize each track, singing the lewder lyrics under my breath in case I was caught. It was sixties punk all over again. It was rock and roll, underground politics, blackmarket, anti-authority at its best all wrapped up in this voice that didn't care about pop-sound or the opera singing techniques I was taught from a young age. She breathed into the microphone and the vocal coaches gasped, and I applauded inside for the courage it took to step outside of the lines in that musical-leash.

I had seen her pictures on the album artwork for From the Choirgirl Hotel, but that was as familiar as I was with her appearance, and I took to not reading her lyrics until I was sure I knew what she was saying, then I'd go back and see what the difference was.

I don't find as many musical-greats as there rightly should be, but Tori is definitely one of them. Who is your musical hero, and why?

No comments: