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My paternal grandmother, Addie, was a teacher and a missionary. Her philosophy was, “You give your soul to God and your body to your husband.” At five years old, I said, “And what is left for me, Grandma?” I got in big trouble for that. But Poppa defended my view: “Don’t interfere with my education of little Myra Ellen [Tori’s birth name].” They would listen to Poppa, because you just did.

Poppa died when I was nine. He was my best friend. I went to his grave and cried daily because I couldn’t hear the stories any more.


My father, who’s now 91, was a reverend at the Rockville United Methodist Church in Maryland. He was tenacious and stood up for what he believed in, like when he went to a record company, pounded his Bible and told them they were cheating me.

I won a scholarship to the Peabody Conservatory at the age of five. My father envisaged that I’d be on the concert stage in my teens. But when I was kicked out for rebelliousness at 11, he couldn’t accept my failure. So at 13 he drove us to Georgetown, in Washington DC, to find a smaller platform where I could perform.

A gay bar was the only place in Georgetown that accepted me. My father, in his clerical collar, would watch while I played upright piano. He copped a lot of flak from the church. My older sister, Marie, believes this hurt his career.

I discovered Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin’s lead singer, when I was eight. I was a bit sweet on John Lennon, too. The truth was that I wanted to be a performer; I wanted to inhabit that space. That voltage.

I was voted homecoming queen at high school. Some classmates like Jeff Black, who later became an IT gazillionaire, leveraged the nerd vote. I’m not delusional – I was never the cutest egg in the hen house.

When I played in bars, I dealt with lots of lubricated men: they changed songs to disgusting things, spilled beer on the piano and on me, then tried to wipe it off. If one made a request, I’d disarm him with, “Does your daughter have a favourite song?”

I met my husband, sound engineer Mark Hawley, in 1994. He’d been hired by my tour manager because he said he could make me sound better, and he did. I was in another relationship at that time, and Mark had his own life. But friends said, “You’re crazy about this quiet British person.” So I bought him a cup of tea and then we went on a date. We’ve been together since.


English author Neil Gaiman is godfather to our 19-year-old daughter, Natashya. We became buddies after he heard my song Tear in Your Hand, from my debut album Little Earthquakes. While writing it, I’d been introduced to his Sandman comic-book series and couldn’t put them down. I referenced Neil in that song’s lyrics. Neil has been very supportive of me. People who trust the artistic process aren’t afraid of sharing what they’ve learnt.

My book, Resistance, is about standing up to oppressive and damaging men. I’ve known women who have talked themselves into relationships with these types of men. I don’t understand why. Maybe it’s because they didn’t have a Poppa.

Resistance (Hachette) by Tori Amos is on sale now.

This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale June 28.

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