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Tom Waits: Singer, Song Writer, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
About This Article
This article is a sampler of Tom Waits. I don't expect anybody to listen the whole song on each of the videos. Just listen to give yourself a chance to get to know the man and his music.
The volume may need to be adjusted for each video. One more thing, YouTube videos play better on the YouTube site. Click on the YouTube icon in the bottom right of the screen. Depending on how your browser is set up, a new browser window should open. If not, just use the back arrow to return to this page.
Getting to Know Tom Waits
The first time I heard Tom Waits or heard of Tom Waits was when I was on a break from my job on the midnight shift at a hospital. I was in one of the waiting rooms channel surfing and I heard this god-awful sound. It was Tom playing the piano and singing. I've been a fan ever since.
When you say you like Tom Waits, you get one of two responses. Either who? or why? That's why I've put this article together, so you can get to know this artist. He's a bit like brussels sprouts or tofu. It's an acquired taste.
Tom Waits, Craftsman
Tom Waits is a craftsman, a musician who doesn’t let conventional wisdom about song writing or performing bother him at all. Look at him on stage. He isn’t singing a song, he’s showing us the song, living it, feeling it. Listen to the crowd respond. Every word is a delicacy to them, a piece of something life sustaining. Here is the mindset behind the lyrics in Tom's own words,
“I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.”
Tom Waits - On The Nickel
He’s been at this a long time. He already had an R&B band while in high school in 1965. If you want to know more about this guy's life and career, see my other article on him.
Tom Waits-In the Colosseum
Tom Waits, First Impressions
I love the reaction I see in people when I introduce them to his music. At first they're repulsed. Of course they are. How else would a person react to that voice the first time they heard it? No sane person would react in any other way than putting their hands over their ears and crying, “Please, dear God, make him stop.” But then they hear a song or two and begin to soften. I’ve seen it many times.
Tom Waits-Chocolate Jesus
Tom Waits on Creating and Song Writing
Pop music today makes me put my hands over my ears and cry, “Please, dear God, make them stop.” Same with country music. If most contemporary singers had a creative bone in their bodies, they’ve already traded it away for a record deal. Just my opinion. Here's what Tom has to say about song writing,
"Writing songs is like capturing birds without killing them. Sometimes you end up with nothing but a mouthful of feathers."
"When you're writing, you're conjuring. It's a ritual, and you need to be brave and respectful and sometimes get out of the way of whatever it is that you're inviting into the room."
Tom Waits-Gun Street Girl
Tom Waits--Love For Music
I’ve turned to alternative music for my listening pleasure. My music file has The Jayhawks, John Hiatt, The Lemonheads, Lucinda Williams, Michelle Shocked, The Mountain Goats, Old 97s, Red House Painters and Uncle Tupelo. Some you may have heard of, some you haven’t, but these aren’t the most popular musicians, bands, song writers and performers around today. Just by listening and watching, I know these people make music because that’s what they love most. That's the kind of musician Tom Waits is.
Tom Waits-The Piano Has Been Drinking
Tom Waits and His Fans
I don’t worship the guy, Tom Waits, I just like what he does, how he does it and how it sounds. It’s genuine, not made to please the masses, but to first please himself. If others like it, great. That's how I understand the man. I get the feeling, if everybody got up and walked out of one of his concerts, he'd just go on singing and playing. That's not to say he isn't interested in his audience. Here are his own words on the subject,
“There’s nothing more embarrassing than a person who tries to guess what the great American public would like, makes a compromise for the first time, and falls flat on his face… I would rather be a failure on my own terms than a success on someone else’s. That’s a difficult statement to live up to, but then I’ve always believed that the way you affect your audience is more important than how many of them are there.”
Tom Waits-Widow's Grove
Photography by Michael O'Brien, Poetry by Tom Waits. A book about the outcasts, the homeless of society.
Tom Waits, The Voice
People ridicule the voice of Tom Waits. I suppose I understand. It is a little rough around the edges. But he’s had nearly fifty years of performing to smooth it out. If it hasn’t happened by now, it probably never will. Something tells me he likes his voice just fine. Here's What Tom has to say about his voice,
“It’s true, I’ll never sing opera again. It is, however, an appropriate organ for conveying; it’s the right horn for my car. People get out of the way when I blow it. It frightens children and gets me a seat at the bar. What more do you want from a voice?”
Tom Waits-Tango Till They're Sore
My Favorite Tom Waits Quote
"There's not much difference between what I appear to be on stage and what I am. I think people like that, that I'm not trying to pull a caper."
Tom Waits, Whatever It Takes to Make the Music
I like how he has the band make music. If he gets the right sound by banging on a metal pipe, then that’s what they use. If singing through a bullhorn makes his voice a little different, better for the song, then he sings through a bullhorn.
Tom Waits-Tom Traubert's Blues (Waltzing Matilda) This must be played on YouTube. Click on the YouTube icon in the lower right hand corner.
Tom Waits and Family
In 1980 he married a woman named Kathleen. They’re still married. I know, I know, lots of musicians have had long marriages, right? Name a few for me. There’s something special about the ones who keep their marriages together, who have found a way to make that person special, number one, their first love. When I hear somebody singing a love song, and I know they’ve been married five times before, the song loses something for me. Here's what Tom has to say on the subject,
"The trick is to have a career and have a family. It’s like having two dogs that hate each other and you have to take them for a walk every night."
Tom Waits-Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Tom Waits and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
This guy, Tom Waits, got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Neil Young introduced him. Lots of performers have covered his songs, and why not? The songs are good. The list is long, but it includes Rod Stewart, The Eagles, Norah Jones, Johnny Cash, Steve Earle, Allison Kraus and Neko Case.
But the Hall of Fame and other performers didn’t make Tom Waits. He did that himself.