Song of the Week – God, Tori Amos

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Today’s SotW is “God” by Tori Amos.

I chose the song because it is relevant given all of the current allegations (e.g. Harvey Weinstein, Lewis CK, Roy Moore, Al Franken, and sadly, our president) that have brought attention to how our patriarchal (and often misogynistic) society allows men use their positions of power to take advantage of women or keep them down. More on that later.

Amos was a piano prodigy, raised in a very strict religious family headed by her Methodist minister father. Legend has it she could play the instrument before she could talk. When she was only 5 years old she won a full scholarship to the prestigious Peabody Institute for gifted children; the youngest person to be admitted).

By the time she was a teenager she became interested in rock music. In the mid-80s she was heading a band called Y Kant Tori Read. This was a career misstep that is obvious just by looking at the album cover and press photos. (The album still commands very high prices in record collecting circles.)

Around 1990 she went solo where she really found her footing and began a very successful career with a following that is passionately loyal.

This brings us back to “God” which was on her second solo album, Under the Pink (1994).

The lyrics are edgy, taking on Christian religion and how women are portrayed as sexless (e.g. the Virgin Mary) and how that tradition has left women in a “less than” role, even today. She challenges this dominant male point of view and the subservient role of women, singing “God sometimes you just don’t come through / Do you need a woman to look after you?”

In the book Women, Sex and Rock ‘n’ Roll – In Their Own Words by Liz Evans, Amos expands on what “God” is all about.

I’ve written a song called ‘God’ about patriarchal religion, and how it’s just fucked the whole thing up. Basically I say to Him, “You know, you need a babe and I’ve got nothing to do Tuesday and Thursday this week!” lt’s unacceptable in how it’s affected people. And it isn’t just women who’ve been affected. Men have had to cut out a whole part of themselves too, which is why we have to deal with all that shit from our boyfriends! Men and women are going to have to recognize the female energy that we’ve cut out.

Beside the thought-provoking lyrics, the music is cool. During this period, Amos mostly performed and recorded solo – just her voice and piano. But on “God” she employs a full band and electronic loops. The result is a cacophony of keys, guitars, drums and effects that yield scronks and squeals that sound like seagulls swarming above.

Over the years I’ve learned that Tori Amos is the type of artist that divides people into lovers or haters. There’s no middle ground – you either get it or you don’t. I think she’s great and “God” is one of my favorite cuts!

Enjoy… until next week.

2 thoughts on “Song of the Week – God, Tori Amos

  1. Hey Tom, you are correct about Tori having lovers and haters. Although I think I fall into a third category.

    I really like Tori’s words and messages and songs for the most part, but, she is kind of like garlic fries or pesto or sun dried tomatoes in that the first bite is great, but the taste so strong that by a half-dozen bites i have had more than enough, you know?

    Still, total respect for her path, lyric strength, and art in general.

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