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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Resistance: A Songwriter's Story of Hope, Change, and CourageResistance: A Songwriter's Story of Hope, Change, and Courage by Tori Amos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Back in the dark ages, I became an obsessed fan of Tori and went to two of her concerts. One was a tight little audience where we could see her close up and playing like MAD on two boards, her body a livewire as she poured all her energy, her life, into her music. If I hadn't seen her go through that, I still would have been a massive emotionally invested fan, but after the Pele tour, I became an uberfan. The second was a full stadium for Choirgirl. It was great but nothing could beat my first experience.

I had spent hundreds of listening hours trying to figure out the lyrics of all her albums. I thought I got pretty close.

It turns out, after reading her latest book, part autobiography, part creative resistance, part history and politics, I may not have been THAT close. But she herself explained why she pulled back to let most of her listeners make up their own minds. Good or bad or just another layer, I think that's great, but now that I understand what was really behind Cornflake Girl or Jackie's Strength, my understanding reached a new intensity.

Reading about how and what she went through for her tours, for each of her gigs, and how she tailored EVERY SINGLE GIG, on the fly, to match the needs of her audience, I shouldn't be all that surprised. All the best do that, don't they? But when I remember the two concerts I saw her at, to think that she never once slid, no matter what else was going on in her life, be it grieving or rage at injustice or anything, and gave less than her very best (and believe me, it's VERY good,) I have nothing but the utmost respect.

And those lyrics? Her real explanations for them are truly emotional and harrowing and sometimes uplifting. Getting the lowdown on those are actually mind-boggling. FGM, for one. Or the Kennedy assassination.

As for recommending this book to anyone, let me spell this out:

It might be confusing unless you are a fan of Tori, because she's not only brilliant, she's got that spark that sends her thoughts in strange directions. This is not only a musical book, but a very much political one. It came out in 2020 when the world was watching the lies and liars take over the media and she gave us her own horrific recollections of history as it unfolded. Spoilers: she's not a fan of MAGA or W or Koch. That's fair. Neither am I.

This is a hybrid autobiographical book. Its all these things I've mentioned -- and it's also a call of arms to all artists to KEEP ON USING YOUR ART to create rather than to destroy.

As a freeform artistic expression, I think this book is all kinds of awesome, but like her music, you need to fall into it to really enjoy it. :)

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