piano players

The Top 4 Piano Players in Rock, in My Humble O


Elton John performing on New Year's Eve at The Barclay's Center in Brooklyn 

Elton John performing on New Year's Eve at The Barclay's Center in Brooklyn 

This week I am sharing some musicians that inspire me and have a profound impact on the way I create music. Some people may take issue with my use of the word best. Music is very subjective, but in my humble O, these are the best piano players rock music has to offer. I aspire to be in the company of these greats one day.

Elton John

Elton John is probably the most internationally well-known person on this list. He’s a prolific writer and knows how to shred on the piano. I saw him perform live at the Barclay’s Center on New Year’s Eve this year. I started to cry almost hysterically, when he opened the show with “Funeral for a Friend.” It was embarrassing, but his performance was extremely moving. The melodies he writes are unforgettable, and entirely his own. At my wedding, my friends and I performed one of his songs for my husband. His music is truly timeless. It’s almost impossible to pick a favorite song, but below are some of my faves of the moment. 

Listen to: Funeral for a friend, Daniel, Candle In The Wind, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, and Your Song.

Nina Simone

Considered more of a jazz player than a rock player, she is a musician and artist who defies genres. Her voice is one of a kind, and her playing is beyond impressive. She manages to be an effortless virtuoso. Her influence is far-reaching. There were a few good years where I listened almost exclusively to her music. It speaks to my soul.

Listen to: I Wish I knew How It Would Feel To Be Free, Sinnerman, The Other Woman, Pirate Jenny, and Don’t Let me be Misunderstood.

Tori Amos

When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV. I didn’t let that stop me. I devised a way to wire the TV in the basement to sneak some MTV. As I watched the contraband station, I caught a live performance of Tori Amos on MTV Unplugged. I was blown away. A couple years before, I had started piano lessons and played pretty well. I dreamt of being a rockstar, but everyone on TV played guitars. When I saw Tori killing it on the piano, I was inspired. I hadn’t seen or heard anything like her before. The song that blew me away was “Blood Roses,” a haunting number she played on the harpsichord. The performance gave me courage to follow my dream.

Listen to: Blood Roses, Cornflake Girl, Professional Widow, A Sorta Fairy Tale, and Jackie’s Strength.

Jerry Lee Lewis

There’s no denying Jerry Lee Lewis knows his way around a set of ivories. He is, without a doubt, one of the founding musicians of rock and roll. As a country musician, his later music really resonates with me. His version of Kris Kristofferson’s “Me & Bobby McGee” might not be as well-known as Janis Joplin’s, but it’s no less incredible. Nobody plays like Jerry Lee. When you hear him playing you immediately know who is behind the keys.

Listen to: Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On, Great Balls of Fire, and Me & Bobby McGee.

Honorable Mentions: Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, and Ben Folds.

I’ll be trying to channel some of these legendary artists next month, when I step into the studio with my band. We are recording four new songs to be released on our first studio EP, along with “Not Gonna Be Friends” later this summer. Download “Not Gonna Be Friends” now, ahead of the full release.