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Amanda MacKinnon Palmer (born April 30, 1976) is a performer most noted for being the lead singer, pianist, and lyricist/composer of the "Brechtian punk cabaret" duo The Dresden Dolls.


Palmer grew up in Lexington, Massachusettsmarker. She attended Bridge Elementary School, Jonas Clarke Middle School and Lexington High Schoolmarker, where she was heavily involved in the drama department, and attended Wesleyan Universitymarker where she was a member of the Eclectic Society. She worked at Toscanini's ice cream shop in Cambridge, Massachusettsmarker. She staged performances based on work by the Legendary Pink Dots, an early influence, and was involved in the Legendary Pink Dots electronic mailing list, Cloud Zero. She then formed the Shadowbox Collective, devoted to putting on theatrical shows (such as the 2002 play, Hotel Blanc, which she directed) and street theatre, and performed as a living statue called "The Eight Foot Bride" in Harvard Squaremarker, Cambridge; Edinburgh, Scotland; Australia (where she met Jason Webley); as well as many other locations. She references this line of work on The Dresden Dolls' self-titled CD, with the song "The Perfect Fit":
"I can paint my face

And stand very, very still

It's not very practical

But it still pays the bills" as well as on the A is for Accident track "Glass Slipper":
"I give out flowers

To curious strangers

who throw dollars at my feet."
A group of white-painted living statues appears in the music video to the single "Sing" from the Dresden Dolls' album Yes, Virginia....

Despite the fact that Palmer never learned to read music (though she briefly took lessons at two different times), she started a solo effort, named "Amanda Palmer and the Void".

The Dresden Dolls

Amanda Palmer performing with The Dresden Dolls at Kings Arms Tavern in Auckland, New Zealand, September 2006
At a Halloween party in 2000, Palmer met drummer Brian Viglione and together they formed The Dresden Dolls. In an effort to expand the performance experience and interactivity, Palmer began inviting Lexington High School students to perform drama pieces at her live shows. Currently, the Dirty Business Brigade, a troupe of seasoned and new artists, perform at many gigs. The invited costumed characters mingle with the crowd before and during the show, and veteran groups sometimes join in with a choreographed stage act. Life-sized marionettes, coin-operated boys, living statues, and other undergroundlings greet fans while circus and burlesque draw the audience into the Dolls' music, creating a participatory atmosphere that allows the audience to experience numerous types of art simultaneously.

After gathering to her a cult following, the band recorded their debut album in 2002 with producer Martin Bisi of indie, New York/Brooklyn fame. They self-published the album before being picked up by Roadrunner Records.

In 2006, The Dresden Dolls Companion, was published, with "words, music & artwork" by Amanda Palmer. In it she has written a history of the album The Dresden Dolls and of the duo, as well as a partial autobiography. The book also contains the lyrics, sheet music, and notes on each song in the album, all written by her, as well as a DVD with a 20 minute interview of Amanda about making the book.

In June 2007, as part of the Dresden Dolls, she toured with the True Colors Tour 2007, including her debut in New York City's Radio City Music Hallmarker, and her first review in the New York Times.

July 2008 saw the release of the second Dresden Dolls book, the Virginia Companion. It is a follow-up to the Dresden Dolls Companion, featuring the music and lyrics from the Yes, Virginia... and No, Virginia... albums.

Amanda Palmer and the Onion Cellar

Palmer conceived a musical, The Onion Cellar, which the Dresden Dolls performed in conjunction with the American Repertory Theatermarker at the Zero Arrow Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from December 9, 2006 to January 13, 2007.

Solo career

Palmer's solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer, was released on 16 September 2008. Ben Folds produced and also played on the album. The title is a play on an expression used by fans during Twin Peaks' original run, "Who killed Laura Palmer?" A companion book of photos of Amanda looking as if she were murdered was released in July 2009 featuring photography by Kyle Cassidy and accompanying writing by Neil Gaiman.

In July 2007, Amanda played three sold out shows (Boston, Hoboken, and NYC) in rare "with band" performances. Her backing band was Boston alternative rock group Aberdeen City, who also opened along with Dixie Dirt. In August 2007, Amanda traveled to perform in the Spiegeltent and other venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotlandmarker, and also performed on BBC Two's The Edinburgh Show. She collaborated with Australian theater company, "The Danger Ensemble"; both again appeared at the Spiegeltent in Melbournemarker and at other venues around Australia in December 2007. In September 2007 Amanda collaborated with Jason Webley to release Evelyn Evelyn's debut EP "Elephant Elephant" via Jason's Eleven Records. In June 2008, Amanda established her solo career with two well-received performances with the Boston Pops. In Autumn 2008, she toured Europe with Jason Webley, Zoe Keating and The Danger Ensemble, performing songs mostly from her debut solo album. She did most of the shows with a broken foot she had sustained in Ireland when a car ran over her foot as she stepped out into a street.In April 2009, she played at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festivalmarker.

In the spring of 2009, Amanda went back to her alma mater, Lexington High School in Massachusetts to collaborate with her old director and mentor Steven Bogart on a workshop piece for the department's spring production. The play, With the Needle that Sings in Her Heart was inspired by Neutral Milk Hotel's album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and The Diary of Anne Frank. It received an overwhelmingly positive response from the Lexington community and abroad. NPR's Avishay Artsy interviewed the cast in a piece featured on All Things Considered on closing night of the production Amanda described this process as "what it's all about" in her blog.

She has amassed an online following of over 111,476 people.

Disputes with record label

Fans' "ReBellyon"

'Who Killed Amanda Palmer?'
Tour 2008
After the release of her music video for the song "Leeds United", Palmer sparked controversy with a post in her blog. She claimed Roadrunner Records had wanted to pull certain shots from the video that exposed her stomach, because "they thought I looked fat". After her fans read about this, they immediately posted pictures of their stomachs online with messages to Roadrunner, lyrics, and words of comfort. They then sent in their pictures to the record label, and even started their own Web site. The fans coined a term for the movement: The ReBellyon. Pitchfork Magazine and The Guardian were among publications reporting on the controversy. Since then The Rebellyon has developed a Web site run by independent musician Matt Wyllie.

Partly because of the controversy caused by the Leeds video, Palmer has recently made attempts to be dropped from Roadrunner Records, which included posting a song on her online blog which asked the label to do so. Subsequently, a message on forums from a forum user, has asked fans to buy music, merchandise and books from Palmer herself either personally or through mail order, via her website and to pass this message on to others.

Oasis controversy

Amanda's song "Oasis", and its follow up video, sparked more controversy. Her semi-autobiographical lyrics tell a story of rape and abortion from the perspective of a teenager, who gets through the traumatic experience thanks to her preoccupation with the Brit-pop band Oasis. The subject matter of the song, and the upbeat way it was portrayed in the video, proved to be too much for broadcasters in the United Kingdom. Palmer received an e-mail while she was in the U.K. from her label there explaining that "all" of the TV outlets in the U.K. had refused to play the video due to its "making light of rape, religion, and abortion". Palmer, in response, reached out to her fans via a lengthy message on her blog. There, she wrote "i suggested that i might be allowed to play it if i just slowed it way down and played it in a minor key. think about it. if they heard the same lyrics against the backdrop of a very sad and liliting piano, maybe with some tear-jerking strings thrown in for good measure, would they take issue?"

Personal life

Amanda's residence in Boston, the Cloud Club, was featured in a 2006 episode of Chronicle the Boston Channelmarker's newsmagazine, which is archived on YouTube.

Amanda practices meditation and has written an article Melody vs. Meditation, for the Buddhist Publication Shambhala Sun on the struggle between being a songwriter and being able to clear one's mind in order to meditate.

She identifies as bisexual. "I'm bisexual, but it's not the sort of thing I spent a lot of time thinking about", Palmer said. "I've slept with girls; I've slept with guys, so I guess that's what they call it! I'm not anti trying to use language to simplify our lives."

Palmer has stated on her blog that she had an abortion at age 17. In the same blog post, she stated that she was date raped when she was 20 years old.

She once dated Ricky Wilson from the English band, The Kaiser Chiefs. She has stated this relationship influenced the writing of "Leeds United" (Ricky was from Leeds and he supported Leeds United).

Palmer has also mentioned her pescetarianism in videos and blogs.

In June 2009, during the Q&A at an event they were doing together, writer Neil Gaiman and Amanda stated that they are dating.

Awards and honors

  • 2009 - #100 on After Ellen's Hot 100 of 2009
  • 2008 – #6 on the Best Solo artist list in the the Guardian's Readers' Poll of 2008
  • 2007 – #6 on's Women Who Rock Right Now
  • 2006 – the Boston Globe named her the most stylish woman in Boston.
  • 2006 – listed in Blender Magazine's hottest women of rock.
  • 2005 – won Best Female Vocalist in the WFNX/Boston Phoenix Best Music Poll.


As a solo artist


Studio albums


  • Who Killed Amanda Palmer: A Collection of Music Videos (2009)

As part of The Dresden Dolls


Cameo appearances

  • "Let Me Borrow That Top" (by Liam Kyle Sullivan aka. "Kelly") (2004) appearing briefly in the mall scene.


  • The Dresden Dolls Companion, by Amanda Palmer, eight foot music publishing, June 2006, ISBN 157560888X ISBN 978-1575608884
  • The Dresden Dolls – The Virginia Companion, by The Dresden Dolls, Cherry Lane Music Company, July 2008, ISBN 1603780793 ISBN 978-1603780797
  • Who Killed Amanda Palmer: A Collection of Photographic Evidence, by Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman, Eight Foot Books, July 2009, ISBN 978-0-615-23439-7 ISBN 0-615-23439-9

See also


External links


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