There’s a Tori Amos song from Boys for Pele called “Marianne” that is a partially fictionalized account of a girl that Tori used to be good friends with. The song portrays Marianne as a suicide, but to hear Tori tell the story she was just a beautiful girl who was too engrossed with the wrong people and eventually succumbed to some sort of overdose while she was still in highschool.
Recently a large discussion on Precious Things erupted over the details of the situation … people wanted to know who Marianne really was. While their interest was rather non-threatening at first, some members of the community kept on pushing … when the overdose was mentioned by someone who is familiar with Tori’s hometown community some people immediately wanted to know what the overdose was on and the circumstances it was under, and i found myself thinking … Is that fair? It’s none of our business who this girl was, and we only know anything about it because Tori decided to divulge something about her so that the song could be viewed fully in the context of what occurred in actual life. But, just because Tori wrote a song about Marianne doesn’t make her life public record, despite what some of the more obsessive fans seem to be thinking.
It’s like… i’m reading a book about a woman that Goethe wrote a novel about, and it’s all about how everyone hounds her over forty years later because of what they assume her to be from Goethe’s work, when she never intended to be written about in the first place. It’s one thing to open yourself to close examination by making yourself famous, but that doesn’t give the public a right to scour your entire life for the people who have motivated and inspired you – and to impose upon them similar treatment. It’s not quite the same with someone who’s passed away, because they don’t have to endure the inquisitive public but they do have to suffer the constant pressure against the memories people have of them.
I don’t mind the plotting out of my own Behind the Music, but i don’t know if i’m comfortable with the idea that every album of songs i write opens up the door for someone to track down the person they’re about decades later… it’s especially unfair when that person doesn’t even know what sort of inspiration they’re causing. Oh well… something for all of you overly chatty storyteller songwriters to think about…