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If there was any kind of generation gap in Orianthi Panagaris's house, it certainly had nothing to do with music. The Alice Cooper shredder and solo star, who picked up the guitar at the age of six, says that both of her parents kept the stereo humming with a wildly disparate array of artists and genres.
"My dad used to listen to Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton," she says, "and my mom liked Michael Bolton and Roy Orbison. She was pretty big into country music, too. So there was a wealth of music being played in the house, and I kind of took it all in."
Before she was out of her teens, Orianthi's way with a guitar had attracted the attention of idols such as Steve Vai and Carlos Santana, and while she certainly put in the time woodshedding to records by her six-string heroes, she stresses that the music of her youth also inspired equally important talents – like moonwalking.
"Who didn't want to dance like Michael Jackson?" she asks almost rhetorically. "I know I did." Of the late superstar, with whom she rehearsed for his planned This Is It concerts in 2009, she says, "He was everything to the whole world, especially with Thriller. No matter who you were, you wanted to move like Michael. You wanted to be him. Thriller was the record you listened to while you made believe."
These days, Orianthi says that she listens to music for a variety of reasons: "Sometimes I want to hear something fun to cook or bake to; other times, I need specific songs to to lift me up. I'm always amazed at how records can make you feel like somebody else understands you." Several years ago, she released a song called Courage (on the 2009 album Believe), which struck a similar chord with listeners around the world.
"I’ve gotten letters and tweets from fans telling me how that one song helped them through though times," she says. "You just can’t ask for more than that. To think that a song you write – not just the lyrics but the mood, as well, the feeling you’re putting across – can matter that much to somebody, it kind of makes you realize you’re doing your job."
On the following pages read Orianthi: The 10 Records That Changed My Life.