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Tori Amos

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Title: Tori Amos  
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Subject: China (Tori Amos song), Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album, American Doll Posse, 1992 MTV Video Music Awards, List of cover versions of Led Zeppelin songs
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Tori Amos

Tori Amos
Tori Amos in 2007
Background information
Birth name Myra Ellen Amos
Born (1963-08-22) August 22, 1963
Newton, North Carolina, U.S.
Genres Alternative rock, baroque pop, art rock, electronica, chamber pop, experimental rock[1]
Occupation(s) Musician, singer-songwriter, record producer, composer
Instruments Piano, harmonium, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Kurzweil, clavinet, vocals
Years active 1979–present
Labels Atlantic, Epic, Universal Republic, Deutsche Grammophon, Mercury Classics
Associated acts Y Kant Tori Read
Website .comtoriamos
Notable instruments
Bösendorfer piano

Tori Amos (born Myra Ellen Amos; August 22, 1963) is an American singer-songwriter, pianist and composer. She is a classically trained musician and possesses a mezzo-soprano vocal range.[3][4] She has been nominated eight times for a Grammy Award.

Having already begun composing instrumental pieces on piano, Amos won a full scholarship to the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University, the youngest person ever to have been admitted, at age five. She was expelled at age eleven for, in her own words, insisting on playing by ear and because of her interest in popular rock music.[5] Amos originally served as the lead singer of short-lived 1980s pop group Y Kant Tori Read before achieving her breakthrough as a solo artist at the forefront of a number of female singer-songwriters in the early 1990s. She has since become one of the world's most prominent female singer-songwriters whose songs have discussed a broad range of topics from sexuality, feminism, politics and religion.[5] She was also noteworthy early in her solo career as one of the few alternative rock performers to use a piano as her primary instrument. Some of her charting singles include "Crucify", "Silent All These Years", "God", "Cornflake Girl", "Caught a Lite Sneeze", "Professional Widow", "Spark", "1000 Oceans", "Flavor", and "A Sorta Fairytale", her most commercially successful single in the U.S. to date.[6] Amos has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide.[7] She has been nominated for and won several awards in different genres, ranging from MTV VMAs to classical music with an Echo award in 2012.[8]

Early life

Amos is the third child of Mary Ellen (Copeland) and Rev. Dr. Edison McKinley Amos.[9] She was born at the Old Catawba Hospital in Eastern Cherokee grandparent of their own; of particular importance to her as a child was her grandfather, Calvin Clinton Copeland, who was a great source of inspiration and guidance, offering a more pantheistic spiritual alternative to her father and paternal grandmother's traditional Christianity.[10] When she was two, her family moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she began to play the piano. By age five, she had begun composing instrumental pieces on piano and, while living in Rockville, Maryland, she won a full scholarship to the Preparatory Division of the Peabody Conservatory of Music.[3] Her scholarship was discontinued at age 11 and she was asked to leave. Amos has asserted that she lost the scholarship because of her interest in rock and popular music, coupled with her dislike for reading from sheet music.[3] In 1972, the Amos family moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, where her father became pastor of the Good Shepherd United Methodist church. At the age of 13 she began playing at gay bars and piano bars, chaperoned by her father.[3][11]

Amos first came to local notice by winning a county teen talent contest in 1977, singing a song called "More Than Just a Friend". As a senior at Richard Montgomery High School, she co-wrote "Baltimore" with her brother Mike Amos for a competition involving the Baltimore Orioles. The song won the contest and became her first single, released as a 7" single pressed locally for family and friends during 1980 with another Amos-penned composition as a B-side, "Walking With You". Before this she performed under her middle name, Ellen, but permanently adopted Tori after a friend's boyfriend told her it suited her.[12] At age 21, Amos moved to Los Angeles to pursue her music career after several years performing on the piano bar circuit of the D.C. area.[13]


Y Kant Tori Read (1986–1988)

In 1986, Amos formed a music group, Y Kant Tori Read, the name of which was a reference to her days at the Peabody Conservatory, where she was able to play songs on her piano by ear, but was never successful at sight reading.[14] In addition to Amos, the group was composed of Steve Caton (who would later play guitars on all her subsequent albums until 1999), drummer Matt Sorum, bass player Brad Cobb and, for a short time, keyboardist Jim Tauber. Following several phases of writing and recording, during which Amos has since asserted that the band lost their musical edge and direction due to interference from record executives, in July 1988, the Y Kant Tori Read's self-titled debut album was released. Although its producer, Joe Chiccarelli, has stated that Amos was very happy with the album at the time,[15] it is now out of print and Amos has expressed no interest in reissuing it.[16] Following the album's commercial failure and the group's subsequent disbanding, Amos began working with other artists (including Stan Ridgway, Sandra Bernhard, and Al Stewart) as a backup vocalist. She also recorded a song called "Distant Storm" for the film China O'Brien; in the credits, the song is attributed to a band called Tess Makes Good.[17] It was the only song recorded by the band, and its only commercial release was in the film.

Early solo career (1990–2001)

Despite the disappointing reaction to Y Kant Tori Read, Amos still had to comply with her six-record contract with Atlantic Records, who in 1989 wanted a new record by March 1990. The initial recordings were declined by the label, which Amos felt was because the album had not been properly presented.[18] The album was reworked and expanded under the guidance of Doug Morris and the musical talents of Steve Caton, Eric Rosse, Will MacGregor, Carlo Nuccio, and Dan Nebenzal, resulting in Little Earthquakes, an album recounting her religious upbringing, sexual awakening, struggle to establish her identity, and sexual assault. This album became her commercial and artistic breakthrough.

Amos traveled to New Mexico with personal and professional partner Eric Rosse in 1993 to write and largely record her second solo record, Under the Pink. The album was received with mostly favorable reviews and sold enough copies to chart at No. 12 on the Billboard 200, a significantly higher position than the preceding album's position at No. 54 on the same chart.[19]

Amos performing on her Dew Drop Inn tour in 1996

Her third solo album, harmonium, and clavichord to her keyboard repertoire, and also included such anomalies as a gospel choir, bagpipes, church bells, and drum programming. The album garnered mixed reviews upon its release, with some critics praising its intensity and uniqueness while others bemoaned its comparative impenetrability. Despite the album's erratic lyrical content and instrumentation, the latter of which kept it away from mainstream audiences, Boys for Pele is Amos's most successful simultaneous transatlantic release, reaching No. 2 on both the Billboard 200 and the UK Top 40 upon its release at the height of her fame.[20][21]

Fueled by the desire to have her own recording studio to distance herself from record company executives,[22] Amos had the barn of her home in Cornwall converted into a state-of-the-art recording studio, Martian Engineering Studios.

From the Choirgirl Hotel and To Venus and Back, released in May 1998 and September 1999, respectively, differ greatly from previous albums as Amos's trademark acoustic piano-based sound is largely replaced with arrangements that include elements of electronica, dance music, vocal washes and sonic landscapes. The underlying themes of both albums deal with womanhood, and Amos's own miscarriages and marriage. Reviews for From the Choirgirl Hotel were mostly favorable and praised Amos's continued artistic originality. While not her highest chart debut, debut sales for From the Choirgirl Hotel are Amos's best to date, selling 153,000 copies in its first week.[23] To Venus and Back, a two-disc release of original studio material and live material recorded from the previous world tour, received mostly positive reviews and included the first major-label single available for sale as a digital download.[24]

Motherhood inspired Amos to produce a cover album, recording songs written by men about women and reversing the gender roles to show a woman's perspective.[25] That idea grew into Strange Little Girls, released in September 2001, one year after giving birth to her daughter. The album is Amos's first concept album, with artwork featuring Amos photographed in character of the women portrayed in each song. Amos would later reveal that a stimulus for the album was to end her contract with Atlantic without giving them new original songs; Amos felt that since 1998, the label had not been properly promoting her and had trapped her in a contract by refusing to sell her to another label.[26]

Epic Records years (2002–07)

With her Atlantic contract fulfilled after a 15-year stint, Amos signed to Epic in late 2001. In October 2002, Amos released Scarlet's Walk, another concept album. Described as a "sonic novel", the album explores Amos's alter ego, Scarlet, intertwined with her cross-country concert tour following 9/11. Through the songs, Amos explores such topics as the history of America, American people, Native American history, pornography, masochism, homophobia and misogyny. The album had a strong debut at No. 7 on the Billboard 200.[27] Scarlet's Walk is Amos's last album to date to reach certified gold status from the RIAA.[28]

Amos in concert in June 2005

Not long after Amos was ensconced with her new label, she received unsettling news when Polly Anthony resigned as president of Epic Records in 2003. Anthony had been one of the primary reasons Amos signed with the label and as a result of her resignation, Amos formed the Bridge Entertainment Group. Further trouble for Amos occurred the following year when her label, Epic/Sony Music Entertainment, merged with BMG Entertainment as a result of the industry's decline.[29] Amos would later hint in interviews that during the creation of her next album, those in charge at the label following the aforementioned merger were interested "only in making money", the effects of which on the album have not been disclosed.

Amos released two more albums with the label, The Beekeeper (2005) and American Doll Posse (2007). Both albums received mixed reviews, some of which stated that the albums suffered from being too long.[30][31] The Beekeeper was conceptually influenced by the ancient art of beekeeping, which she considered a source of female inspiration and empowerment. Through extensive study, Amos also wove in the stories of the Gnostic gospels and the removal of women from a position of power within the Christian church to create an album based largely on religion and politics. The album debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200,[32] placing her in an elite group of women who have secured five or more US Top 10 album debuts.[33] While the newly merged label was present throughout the production process of The Beekeeper, Amos and her crew nearly completed her next project, American Doll Posse, before inviting the label to listen to it. American Doll Posse, another concept album, is fashioned around a group of girls (the "posse") who are used as a theme of alter-egos of Amos's. Musically and stylistically, the album saw Amos return to a more confrontational nature.[34] Like its predecessor, American Doll Posse debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200.[19]

During her tenure with Epic Records, Amos also released a retrospective collection titled Tales of a Librarian (2003) through her former label, Atlantic Records; a two-disc DVD set Fade to Red (2006) containing most of Amos's solo music videos, released through the Warner Bros. reissue imprint Rhino; a five disc box set titled A Piano: The Collection (2006), celebrating Amos's 15-year solo career through remastered album tracks, remixes, alternate mixes, demos, and a string of unreleased songs from album recording sessions, also released through Rhino; and numerous official bootlegs from two world tours, The Original Bootlegs (2005) and Legs & Boots (2007) through Epic Records.

Universal Republic (2008–2011)

In May 2008, Amos announced that, due to creative and financial disagreements with Epic Records, she had negotiated an end to her contract with the record label, and would be operating independently of major record labels on future work.[35][36] In September of the same year, Amos released a live album and DVD, Live at Montreux 1991/1992, through Eagle Rock Entertainment, of two performances she gave at the Montreux Jazz Festival very early on in her career while promoting her debut solo album, Little Earthquakes. By December, after a chance encounter with chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, Doug Morris, Amos signed a "joint venture" deal with Universal Republic Records.[37][38][39][40]

Abnormally Attracted to Sin, Amos's tenth solo studio album and her first album released through Universal Republic, was released in May 2009 to mostly positive reviews. The album debuted in the top 10 of the Billboard 200,[41] making it Amos's seventh album to do so.[42] Abnormally Attracted to Sin, admitted Amos, is a "personal album", not a conceptual one, with the album exploring themes of power, boundaries, and the subjective view of sin.[43] Continuing her distribution deal with Universal Republic, Amos released Midwinter Graces, her first seasonal album, in November of the same year. The album features reworked versions of traditional carols, as well as original songs written by Amos.[44]

During her contract with the label, Amos recorded vocals for two songs for David Byrne's collaboration album with Fatboy Slim, titled Here Lies Love,[45] which was released in April 2010. In July of the same year, the DVD Tori Amos- Live from the Artists Den was released exclusively through Barnes & Noble.

After a brief tour from June to September 2010, Amos released the highly exclusive live album From Russia With Love in December the same year, recorded live in Moscow on September 3, 2010. The limited edition set included a signature edition Lomography Diana F+ camera, along with 2 lenses, a roll of film and 1 of 5 photographs taken of Tori during her time in Moscow. The set was released exclusively through and only 2000 copies were produced.

Universal Music (2012–present)

In September 2011, Amos released her first classical music album, Night of Hunters, featuring variations on a theme to pay tribute to such renowned composers as Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Granados, Satie and Schubert, through the Deutsche Grammophon label, a division of Universal Music Group. Amos recorded the album with several musicians, including the Apollon Musagète string quartet.

To mark the 20th anniversary of her debut album Little Earthquakes (1992), Amos released an album of songs from her back catalogue re-worked and re-recorded with the Metropole Orchestra. The album, titled Gold Dust, was released in October 2012 through Deutsche Grammophon.[46]

On May 1, 2012, Amos announced the formation of her own record label Transmission Galactic, which she intends to use to develop new artists. One of the first artists signed is singer/songwriter, Lawrence Casey.

In 2013, Amos collaborated with The Bullitts on the track "Wait Until Tomorrow" from their debut album They Die by Dawn & Other Short Stories. She has also stated in an interview that a new album and tour will materialize in 2014 and that it will be a "return to contemporary music".[47]

September 2013 saw the launch of Tori Amos' much anticipated musical project adaptation, The Light Princess, along with book writer Samuel Adamson and Marianne Elliott. It premiered at London's Royal National Theatre and ended February 2014. The Light Princess and its lead actress Rosalie Craig were nominated for Best Musical and Best Musical Performance, respectively, at the prestigious Evening Standard Award. Rosalie Craig won the Best Musical Performance category. Plans of bringing The Light Princess to Broadway theatre are underway, and a cast recording release in 2015 via Universal.

Amos' 14th studio album, Unrepentant Geraldines, was released May 13, 2014, via Mercury Classics/Universal Music Classics in the US. Its first single, "Trouble's Lament", was released on March 28. The new album is being supported by the Unrepentant Geraldines Tour which began May 5, 2014 in Cork and will be heading across Europe before touring North America in July/August 2014. Her tour included South Africa and Australia.[48] In Sydney, Tori performed two orchestral concerts, reminiscent of the Gold Dust Orchestral Tour, with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at Sydney Opera House.[49]

According to a press release, Unrepentant Geraldines is a "return to her core identity as a creator of contemporary songs of exquisite beauty following a series of more classically-inspired and innovative musical projects of the last four years. [It is] both one further step in the artistic evolution of one of the most successful and influential artists of her generation, and a return to the inspiring and personal music that Amos is known for all around the world."[50]

In print

Released in conjunction with The Beekeeper, Amos co-authored an autobiography with rock music journalist Ann Powers titled Piece by Piece (2005). The book's subject is Amos's interest in mythology and religion, exploring her songwriting process, rise to fame, and her relationship with Atlantic Records.

Image Comics released Comic Book Tattoo (2008), a collection of comic stories, each based on or inspired by songs recorded by Amos. Editor Rantz Hoseley worked with Amos to gather 80 different artists for the book, including Pia Guerra, David Mack, and Leah Moore.

Additionally, Amos and her music have been the subject of numerous official and unofficial books, as well as academic critique, including Tori Amos: Lyrics (2001) and an earlier biography, Tori Amos: All These Years (1996).[51][52][53]

Tori Amos: In the Studio (2011) by Jake Brown features an in-depth look at Amos's career, discography and recording process.[54]

Personal life

Amos in 1993 Alexandra Palace, London

Early in her professional career, Amos befriended author Neil Gaiman, who became a fan after she referred to him in the song "Tear in Your Hand" and also in print interviews.[55] Although created before the two met, the character Delirium from Gaiman's The Sandman series is inspired by Amos; Gaiman has stated that they "steal shamelessly from each other".[56] She wrote the foreword to his collection Death: The High Cost of Living; he in turn wrote the introduction to Comic Book Tattoo. Gaiman is godfather to her daughter and a poem written for her birth, Blueberry Girl, was published as a children's book of the same name in 2009.[57]

Amos married English sound engineer Mark Hawley on February 22, 1998. Their only child, a daughter named Natashya "Tash" Lórien Hawley, was born on September 5, 2000, a few weeks after Tori's 37th birthday. The family divides its time among Sewall's Point in Florida, Kinsale[58] (County Cork) in Ireland, and Bude in Cornwall in England.


In June 1994, [62] On August 18, 2013 a concert in honor of her 50th birthday was held, an event which raised money for RAINN.[63]


Studio albums


Amos, who has been performing in bars and clubs from as early as 1976 and under her professional name as early as 1991 has performed more than 1,000 shows since her first world tour in 1992. In 2003, Amos was voted fifth best touring act by the readers of Rolling Stone magazine. Her concerts are notable for their changing set lists from night to night.

Little Earthquakes Tour
Amos's first world tour began on January 29, 1992 in London and ended on November 30, 1992 in Auckland. She performed solo with a Yamaha CP-70 unless the venue was able to provide a piano.[64][65] The tour included 142 concerts around the globe.
Under the Pink Tour
Amos's second world tour began on February 24, 1994 in Newcastle upon Tyne and ended on December 13, 1994 in Perth, Western Australia. Amos performed solo each night on her iconic Bösendorfer piano, and on a prepared piano during "Bells for Her". The tour included 181 concerts.
Dew Drop Inn Tour
The third world tour began on February 23, 1996 in harmonium, with Steve Caton on guitar on some songs. The tour included 187 concerts.
Plugged '98 Tour
Amos's first band tour. Amos, on piano and Kurzweil keyboard, was joined by Steve Caton on guitar, Matt Chamberlain on drums, and Jon Evans on bass. The tour began on April 18, 1998 in Fort Lauderdale and ended on December 3, 1998 in East Lansing, Michigan, including 137 concerts.
5 ½ Weeks Tour / To Dallas and Back
Amos's fifth tour was North America–only. The first part of the tour was co-headlining with Alanis Morissette and featured the same band and equipment line-up as in 1998. Amos and the band continued for eight shows before Amos embarked on a series of solo shows. The tour began on August 18, 1999 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and ended on December 9, 1999 in Denver, including 46 concerts.
Strange Little Tour
This tour was Amos's first since becoming a mother in 2000 and her first tour fully solo since 1994 (Steve Caton was present on some songs in 1996). It saw Amos perform on piano, Rhodes piano, and Wurlitzer electric piano, and though the tour was in support of her covers album, the set lists were not strictly covers-oriented. Having brought her one-year-old daughter on the road with her, this tour was also one of Amos's shortest ventures, lasting just three months. It began on August 30, 2001 in London and ended on December 17, 2001 in Milan, including 55 concerts.
On Scarlet's Walk / Lottapianos Tour
Amos's seventh tour saw her reunited with Matt Chamberlain and Jon Evans, but not Steve Caton. The first part of the tour, which featured Amos on piano, Kurzweil, Rhodes, and Wurlitzer, was six months long and Amos went out again in the summer of 2003 for a tour with Ben Folds opening. The tour began on November 7, 2002 in Tampa and ended on September 4, 2003 in West Palm Beach, featuring 124 concerts. The final show of the tour was filmed and released as part of a DVD/CD set titled Welcome to Sunny Florida (the set also included a studio EP titled Scarlet's Hidden Treasures, an extension of the Scarlet's Walk album).
Original Sinsuality Tour / Summer of Sin
This tour began on April 1, 2005 in Kylie Minogue hit "Can't Get You Out of My Head", which Amos dedicated to her the day after Minogue's breast cancer was announced to the public. Other songs performed by Amos include The Doors' "People are Strange", Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus", Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game", Madonna's "Live to Tell" and "Like a Prayer", Björk's "Hyperballad", Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks" (which she debuted in Austin, Texas, just after the events of Hurricane Katrina), Kate Bush's "And Dream of Sheep" and Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over", dedicating it to drummer Paul Hester who had died a week before. The entire concert tour featured 82 concerts, and six full-length concerts were released as The Original Bootlegs.
American Doll Posse World Tour
This was Amos's first tour with a full band since her 1999 Five and a Half Weeks Tour, accompanied by long-time band mates Jon Evans and Matt Chamberlain, with guitarist Dan Phelps rounding out Amos's new band.[66] Amos's equipment included her piano, a Hammond B-3 organ, and two Yamaha S90 ES keyboards. The tour kicked off with its European leg in Rome, Italy on May 28, 2007, which lasted through July, concluding in Israel; the Australian leg took place during September; the North American leg lasted from October to December 16, 2007, when the tour concluded in Los Angeles. Amos opened each show dressed as one of the four non-Tori personae from the album, then Amos would emerge as herself to perform for the remaining two-thirds of the show. The entire concert tour featured 93 concerts, and 27 full-length concerts of the North American tour were released as official bootlegs in the Legs and Boots series.
Sinful Attraction Tour
For her tenth tour, Amos returned to the trio format of her 2002 and 2003 tours with bassist Jon Evans and drummer Matt Chamberlain while expanding her lineup of keyboards by adding three Seattle, Washington and ended in Warsaw on October 10, 2009. A solo leg through Australia began in Melbourne on November 12, 2009 and ended in Brisbane on November 24, 2009. The entire tour featured 63 concerts.
Night of Hunters tour
Amos's eleventh tour was her first with a string quartet, Apollon Musagète, (Amos's equipment includes her piano and a Yamaha S90 ES keyboard) and her first time touring in South Africa. It kicked off on September 28, 2011 in Finland, Helsinki Ice Hall and ended on December 22, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.[67]
Gold Dust Orchestral Tour
Tori Amos kicked off her 2012 tour in Rotterdam on October 1.
Unrepentant Geraldines Tour
Tori Amos began her 2014 world tour on May 5, 2014 in Cork, Ireland.

Awards and nominations

Amos was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame on October 11, 2012.[68]

Grammy Awards
Year Recipient Award Result
1995 Under The Pink Best Alternative Music Album Nominated
1997 Boys for Pele Best Alternative Music Album Nominated
1999 From the Choirgirl Hotel Best Alternative Music Album Nominated
"Raspberry Swirl" Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Nominated
2000 To Venus and Back Best Alternative Music Album Nominated
"Bliss" Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Nominated
2002 Strange Little Girls Best Alternative Music Album Nominated
"Strange Little Girl" Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Nominated


  • In 2003, the Tori Amos album Scarlet's Walk (deluxe edition) was nominated in the category "Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Packaging", this nomination went to the art directors Dave Bett and Sherri Lee.
  • Also in 2003, "Timo on Tori (Don't Make Me Come To Vegas) a remix of the Tori Amos song Don't Make Me Come to Vegas was nominated in the category "Best Remixed Recording, Non Classical" this nomination went to the remixers Mark Buttrich and Timo Maas.
Brit Awards
Year Recipient Award Result
1995 Best International Female Nominated
Q Awards
Year Recipient Award Result
1992 Best New Act Won
MTV Europe Music Awards
Year Recipient Award Result
1994 Best Female Nominated
MTV Video Music Awards
Year Recipient Award Result
1992 "Silent All These Years" Best Female Video Nominated
Best Cinematography in a Video Nominated
Best New Artist in a Video Nominated
Breakthrough Video Nominated
Echo Klassik Awards
Year Recipient Award Result
2012 Night of Hunters Klassik Ohne Grenzen (crossover classical) prize Won
WhatsOnStage Awards
Year Recipient Award Result
2014 The Light Princess (Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson) Best New Musical Nominated
Tori Amos (composer) for The Light Princess The Dewynters London Newcomer of the Year Nominated


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