Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple Biography

SHE'S young, talented, beautiful, and, if her handlers have done right by her, she's well on her way to becoming a rock star. No wonder Fiona Apple is so miserable.

At least that's how she appears. Observe, for example, how Apple stares searchingly from advertisements for her debut album, Tidal: her eyes are sunken, dark-rimmed; her hands clutch at the corners of her open shirt, giving a perception that she's been violated in some unspeakable, albeit very sexy and not altogether involuntary, manner. The image is a shocking and highly inappropriate one, given that Apple was herself a victim of rape at age twelve.

Next, listen as Apple rants at the MTV Awards about how "this world [the entertainment industry] is bullshit," prematurely dismissing a generation of potential Fionabes with the admonition "go with yourself." But don't fail to note that her helplessly waifish on-screen image is directly in keeping with the kind of systematic objectification of women for which many critics have indicted MTV. Her clip for "Criminal," for instance, unfolds like outtakes from a porno film, as Apple, clad only in underwear, prowls among a houseful of partied-out teenagers reposing in various stages of undress. Either Apple has indeed been a "bad, bad girl," as her "Criminal" lyrics profess, or she just plays one on TV. As Aretha Franklin once asked, who's zoomin' who?

Born September 13, 1977, in New York City, Fiona Apple Maggart is the daughter of actor Brandon Maggart and former actress Diane McAfee, who met when they performed together in a musical. The couple has another daughter, Amber, two years Fiona's senior, in addition to children from other relationships. Maggart and McAfee split up when Fiona was four, and she thereafter lived primarily in New York with her mother; she now divides her time between both parents' homes.

At age eight, Apple started taking piano lessons, stopping after a couple of years to leave her keyboard skills to develop intuitively. At eleven, she wrote her first song. That same year, she announced to a classmate that she was going to kill herself and her sister. Apple now claims the remark wasn't said with any serious intent, but, at the time, it prompted a visit—the first of many—to a psychiatrist. "Therapy's great if you have a good therapist and if you're willing to go and answer questions," she told the Los Angeles Times in 1996. "But I really thought I was fine until they put me into therapy. Then I thought, ?Well, maybe something's wrong with me.' It screwed me up. So now I need therapy because they forced it on me before!"

Apple suffered a devastating childhood trauma at the age of twelve, when she was raped in the hallway of her mother's New York apartment building. Though she has only obliquely referred to the incident in her art with the song "Sullen Girl," she has not been shy about addressing the topic in interviews, typically stating with some vehemence that she does not wish to be thought of as a "poster girl for rape." At the same time, she has also suggested that her artistic personality might never have emerged had the incident not happened.

The story of Apple's discovery reads something like a Generation-X version of Hollywood's Schwab's Drug Store legend. In 1994, a friend of Apple's passed a demo tape of several songs she had written and performed to music-industry publicist Kathryn Schenker, for whom the friend worked as a baby-sitter. Schenker (whose clients include Sting, the Smashing Pumpkins, and Aerosmith) met with Apple and was impressed enough by what she heard and saw to introduce the young singer-songwriter to producer-artist manager Andrew Slater. Slater took Apple on at HK Management; got her signed to Sony's affiliate label, WORK; and produced her debut record in late 1995.

Propelled by the singles "Shadowboxer," "Sleep to Dream," and "Criminal," the moody Tidal became a hit, and Apple's jazzy, world-weary vocals and lyrics earned her favorable comparisons to Nina Simone. As accomplished as the debut effort was, Apple's penchant for midriff-baring ensembles called into question her seriousness as an artist. Doubts proliferated after her very public faux pas at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards. Called to the stage to accept the Best New Artist prize, an unprepared Apple bit the hand that was feeding her by delivering a brief invective, characterized by extreme prejudice and not a little incoherence: "You shouldn't model your life about what you think that we think is cool and what we're wearing and what we're saying and everything," she protested, "Go with yourself."

Though Apple considers the gaffe a "defining moment," one that will enable her to fearlessly navigate such situations in the future, it required considerable spin-doctoring. In an open letter to her fans published on her Web site, Apple explained: "When I won, I felt like a sellout. I felt that I deserved recognition, but that now, in the blink of an eye, all of those people who didn't give a fuck who I was, or what I thought, were now all at once, just humoring me, appeasing me, and not because of my talent, but instead because of the fact that somehow, with the help of my record company, and my makeup artist, my stylist, and my press, I had successfully created the illusion that I was perfect, and pretty, and rich, and therefore living a higher quality of life."

Despite such protestations, the Apple cart rolls on: Fiona garnered 1998 Grammy nominations for Best New Artist, Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, and Best Rock Song (the latter two for "Criminal"); her album has racked up multi-platinum sales; and she and her boyfriend, street magician David Blaine, continue to be favorite subjects of the paparazzi. There's no doubt that Apple is a promising artist, that her album betrays both an old-soul wisdom and new-school smarts — but whether her music or her flighty image proves to be more entertaining has yet to be determined.

Fiona Apple Bio from Discogs

American singer-songwriter and pianist, born September 13, 1977 in New York City, New York.

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