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I’m a big fan of Tori Amos’ music. I love her compositions and her lyrics. She has way of merging the feminine, the quirky and the controversial in a way that is very aesthetically appealing to me. I bought her book, Resistance: A Songwriter’s Story of Hope, Change and Courage, as a kind of last strike with memoirs as I have been dragging myself through them – although, to be fair, I do drag myself through a lot of things these days. But I haven’t been enjoying memoirs and I said to myself that if I don’t like this one, I’ll retire them from my reading diet for a while.
I was pleasantly surprised. This memoir created a lot of emotion in me – it both saddened me and made me laugh. Tori is great at wit and her writing is thoughtful, fluid and poetic. She has included the lyrics to a selection of songs in the memoir as they related to the material in a particular chapter – and it was a particular treat to see some of my favourites show up.
I guess what I have a problem with, and it’s my problem, is the self-aggrandising element of memoirs. The excessive use of ‘I’ – I don’t handle it well. Which is ironic, because I tend to talk about myself a lot on this blog. Anyway, this memoir is different. It is Tori’s exploration of how art can bring meaning into people’s lives and how it can serve as a subtle form of political armour, with the artist being the bridge or mediator.
I agree. But the meaning songs bring can differ between people. She relates ‘Silent All These Years’ – a song that I love – to feminism, women using their voice and power and sexual harassment. Funnily enough, when the Syrian revolution-turned-civil-war started, I found myself listening to this song a lot. It symbolised for me a people that had had a glorious legacy of revolt and people power and had then be subjugated under the iron shoe of a ruthless dictator finding their voice again. Now, I always think about Syria when I listen to that song.
Tori recounts a lot of events that have affected and her song writing – the 9/11 attacks, the rhetoric before and during the Iraq war, and the passing of her mother. I was really moved with her account of what G.W Bush had been saying before going to war, and how his words tend to look now, with the gift of hindsight. She relates events directly to songs, which leads me to believe that a lot of song writers do this, and that some songs should be added to the archives of history.
I also loved that Tori uses a show’s song list to engage with her audience, and how her song list may change at the last minute due to the current events and the emotions of people in her audience. While I always viewed music as solace, I wonder if other artists use their songs to sound the protests of their audiences.
I don’t agree with everything Tori says politically. That being said, I think this book is a great read, for artists especially. It definitely gave me a boost creatively after learning about her take on writer’s block.