Jackie's Strength

Album: From The Choirgirl Hotel (1998)
Charted: 54

Songfacts®:

  • The second single from Tori Amos' fourth solo album finds her dealing with pre-wedding jitters by summoning the strength of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, President John F. Kennedy's widow. In February 1998, just a few months before she released the album, Amos married sound engineer Mark Hawley. The singer had never seriously considered marriage and the proposal took her by surprise. Once she accepted, she contemplated the trajectory of her life and how fast things can change. She recalled: "I knew I was getting married, and all those feelings were coming up, sort of flashbacks of your life. So when I saw this tiny book on Jackie's life at a book store in an airport I just picked it up, and when I saw the picture of her as a bride... and then turned the page and saw the picture of her when JFK got shot, it really spoke to me about how fast your life can change, at the turn of a page."
  • The opening lyrics introduce Jackie Bouvier's union with John F. Kennedy ("A Bouvier till her wedding day") and recall the day he was assassinated on November 22, 1963 ("shots rang out and the police came"). Amos was just a few months old at the time, but her mother's reaction inspired the lines, "Mama laid me on the front lawn and prayed for Jackie's strength."

    The singer explained in her VH1 Storytellers special: "I remember my mother telling me that the day Kennedy died, John F. Kennedy, that she put me down, she had to lay me down because her heart started to slow down and she couldn't breathe. And all she thought of was Jackie and the strength that it would take Jackie to lead the nation... which she did. And I really knew that I was gonna need some kind of strength because I'm made up of like two personalities. There's one side of me that could very easily have ended up at the 7-Eleven sitting outside drinking a Slurpee in my wedding dress and just missing the whole thing. And then there's the other one that did make it to the church. So, this song is about the one that drank the Slurpee. She's still out there somewhere."
  • In the lyrics, Amos recalls "worshipping David Cassidy." Cassidy, who starred on the popular musical sitcom The Partridge Family, was a major teen idol in the '70s. He sang lead on the hit song "I Think I Love You."
  • In the black-and-white music video, Amos is a bride who ditches her wedding to cruise around town in a taxi. We also see shots of other townsfolk struggling with serious problems, including a teenager who discovers she's pregnant, and an elderly woman who neglects to take her medication. At the end, a younger version of the singer - wearing a locket with a photo of Jackie O. - chases down the taxi and the bride emerges to meet her. The clip was directed by James Brown, who also helmed the video for "Spark."
  • A remixed version went to #1 on the US Dance Club chart.
  • Peaking at #6, this was Amos' last Top 10 album in the UK, where she broke through with her debut, Little Earthquakes, in 1992. In the US, it topped out at #5.
  • Beene, the girl who provided pot for sleepovers, also inspired the subsequent single, "Raspberry Swirl."

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