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December 1996

TORI AMOS

"My songs are alive. I'm trying to translate for them in a language of music, rhythm and tone."

She lilted murderous lyrics on her second album, Under the Pink, and named her last effort Boys for Pele, after the Hawaiian volcano goddess who fed on the sacrificial offerings of young men. Tori Amos' music is as fierce and foreboding as the singer is petite and polite.

"My songs are alive," says Amos, who first caused the music world to marvel with her 1992 platinum-selling debut, Little Earthquakes. "It's like I'm trying to translate for them in a language of music, rhythm and tone. It's also like translating another piece of woman, of man... of us."

Amos grew up in North Carolina as the daughter of a Methodist preacher and started playing picano at age 2. But it wasn't until she was a veteran 4-year-old that she began writing original compositions. "I was a hit at parties," says Amos, 32, whose charm-school posture is juxtaposed with a pile of wild red hair. "The adults got very analytical about it, especially being from a religious background. It was like, "Where does it all come from?" But whether you believe in gifts from Willy Wonka or reincarnation, it wasn't a spiritual thing. It was just a fact."

Amos' lyrics are as inventive as her speech, and she often counters the more heavy-duty imagery in her songs (blood, Christ, crucifixion) with Dr. Seuss-ian rhymes like "tuna, rubber, a little blubber in my igloo." "I'd like to think that my work has multidimensionality," says Amos. "That I can change a pair of shoes in the middle of the song and it's OK. That there is no structure that says I have to wear the same pair all the way through. As long as I've got feet, it's all right."

- Lorraine Ali


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