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Waits, Tom 1949-

Waits, Tom 1949-

PERSONAL

Full name, Thomas Alan Waits; born December 7, 1949, in Pomona, CA; son of Frank (a teacher; some sources cite name as Frank W. McMurray) and Alma (a teacher; maiden name, Johnson; some people cite married name as Alma McMurray) Waits; married Kathleen Patricia Brennan (a writer and composer), August 10, 1980; children: Kellesimone Wylder, Casey Xavier, Sullivan.

Career:

Musician, composer, actor, and writer. Performed at concerts and on tour with groups including Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, and with other performers, including John Hammond, Jim McGuinn, Martha Jones, Martin Mull, Leon Redbone, and Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody. Also worked in a pizzeria.

Member:

Musicians Union Local 47, Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

Awards, Honors:

Academy Award nomination, best score, 1983, for One from the Heart; Rolling Stone music award, best songwriter—critics' pick, 1985; Los Angeles Critics Award, best actor, 1989, for Demon Wine; Grammy Award, best alternative album, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1992, for Bone Machine; Volpi Cup (with others), best ensemble cast, Venice Film Festival, 1993, Special Award (with others), best ensemble cast, Golden Globe awards, 1994, for Short Cuts; Grammy Award, best contemporary folk album, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 2000, for Mule Variations; Founders Award, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, 2001; Drama Desk Award nomination (with others), best music, for Black Rider; award from Club Tenco, Italy; ASCAP Award, top television series, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Film and Television Music awards, 2004, for The Wire; David Award nomination (with Kathleen Brennan), best music, David di Donatello awards, 2006, for La Tigre e la neve.

CREDITS

Stage Appearances:

Frank's Wild Years, Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago, IL, 1986.

Tom Waits in Concert on Broadway, Eugene O'Neill Theatre, New York City, 1987.

Demon Wine, Los Angeles Theatre Company, Los Angeles, 1989.

Film Appearances:

Chilly, On the Yard, 1978.

Mumbles, Paradise Alley, Universal, 1978.

Drunken bar owner, Wolfen, Warner Bros., 1981.

Tom Waits for No One, 1981.

Trumpet player, One from the Heart, 1982.

The Making of "One from the Heart," 1982.

Petrified man in carnival, The Stone Boy, 1982.

Himself, Poetry in Motion, 1982.

Benny, Rumble Fish, Universal, 1983.

Buck Merrill, The Outsiders, Warner Bros., 1983.

Irving Stark, The Cotton Club, Orion, 1984.

Streetwise, 1984.

Zack, Down by Law, Island, 1986.

Al Silk, Candy Mountain, 1987.

Rudy, Ironweed, TriStar, 1987.

Himself, Big Time, 1988.

Kenny, Cold Feet, Avenue, 1989.

Silva, Bearskin: An Urban Fairytale (also known as Bearskin and Na pele do urso), 1989.

Voice of radio disc jockey, Mystery Train, Orion, 1989.

Homeless man in wheelchair, The Fisher King, TriStar, 1991.

Monte, Queen's Logic, Seven Arts Pictures, 1991.

Plainclothes police officer, The Two Jakes, Paramount, 1991.

Singer in bar, Bis ans ende der welt (also known as Until the End of the World and Jusqu'au bout du monde), 1991.

Wolf, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Universal, 1991.

R. M. Renfield, Dracula (also known as Bram Stoker's Dracula), Columbia, 1992.

Earl Piggot, Short Cuts, Fine Line Features, 1993.

Luck, Trust & Ketchup: Robert Altman in Carver Country (also known as Luck, Trust and Ketchup), 1993.

Coffee and Cigarettes III (also known as Coffee and Cigarettes: Somewhere in California), 1993.

Narrator, Guy Maddin: Waiting for Twilight (documentary), Marble Island Pictures, 1997.

Dr. A. Heller (weapons designer), Mystery Men, Universal, 1999.

An American Affair, 1999.

Cadillac Tramps, 2000.

In the Boom Boom Room, Lions Gate Films, 2000.

Freedom Highway: Songs that Shaped a Century (also known as Freedom Highway), 2001.

Bukowski: Born into This, Magnolia, 2003.

Tom, Coffee and Cigarettes, 2003.

Wanderer, Domino, 2005.

La tigre e la neve (also known as The Tiger and the Snow), Focus Features, 2005.

Absolute Wilson, New Yorker, 2006.

Kneller, Wristcutters: A Love Story (also known as Pizzeria Kamikaze), 2006.

One Fast Move or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur, Kerouac, 2008.

Film Work; Song Producer:

(And song arranger) "Back in the Good Old World" and "Good Old World," Night on Earth, Fine Line, 1991.

"Little Drop of Poison," The End of Violence, 1997.

Film Music Arranger:

The Black Rider, 1990.

Television Appearances; Series:

Fishing with John, Independent Film Channel, 1991.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Tom Waits: A Day in Vienna, 1978.

The Tom and Dick Smothers Brothers Special, 1980.

Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night, Cinemax, 1988.

The Best Hotel on Skid Row, HBO, 1990.

The Best of Cinemax Sessions, Cinemax, 1990.

Red, Hot & Blue, ABC, 1990.

Luck, Trust, and Ketchup: Robert Altman in Carver Country (also known as Luck, Trust, and Ketchup), Bravo, 1994.

In Dreams: The Roy Orbison Story, 1999.

Hollywood Salutes Nicolas Cage: An American Cinemathogue Tribute, 2002.

Mississippi Rising, 2005.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Austin City Limits, PBS, 1975, 1979.

Dinah! (also known as Dinah! & Friends), 1976.

The Mike Douglas Show, 1976.

"Julian Bond/Tom Waits, Brick," Saturday Night Live (also known as NBC's Saturday Night and SNL), 1977.

Fernwood 2 Night (also known as Fernwood Tonight), 1977.

Canada After Dark, CBC, 1979.

Loose Talk, 1983.

Late Night with David Letterman, NBC, 1983, 1987 and 1988.

The Old Grey Whistle Test (also known as Whistle Test), 1985.

Storytellers, VH1, 1996.

Fishing with John, 1998.

Late Show with David Letterman (also known as Letterman and The Late Show), CBS, 2002, 2006.

Zack, Cinema Mil, 2005.

The Daily Show (also known as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Global Edition), Comedy Channel, 2006.

Late Night with Conan O'Brien, NBC, 2007.

La Mandragora, 2007.

Appeared as in "Tom Waits: Una veu al fons del bar," Arsenal.

RECORDINGS

Albums:

Closing Time, Asylum, 1973.

The Heart of Saturday Night, Asylum, 1974.

Nighthawks at the Diner, Asylum, 1975.

Small Change, Asylum, 1976.

Mainstreet, 1976.

Blue Valentine, Asylum, 1978.

Foreign Affairs, Asylum, 1978.

Heart Attack and Vine, Asylum, 1980.

Bounced Checks, Elektra/Asylum, 1981.

One from the Heart (soundtrack), Columbia, 1982.

Swordfishtrombone, Island, 1983.

Tom Waits, 1984.

Anthology, Asylum, 1985.

Asylum Years, Elektra/Asylum, 1985.

Raindogs, Island, 1985.

Frank's Wild Years, Island, 1987.

Big Time, Island, 1988.

The Early Years, Vol. 1, Manifesto, 1991.

Bone Machine, Island, 1992.

Night on Earth, Island, 1992.

The Black Rider, Island, 1993.

Cold Beer on a Hot Night, 1993.

The Early Years, Vol. 2, 1993.

Beautiful Maladies: The Island Years, Island, 1998.

The Best of Tom Waits, Import, 1998.

Mule Variations, Epitaph, 1999.

Bunny, 1999.

Used Songs, Elektra, 2001.

The Dime Store Novels, Vol 1, Import, 2001.

Pulp Noir, Vol. 1, Vivid, 2001.

Blood Money, Anti, 2002.

Alice, Anti, 2002.

Mule Variations, Japanese Import, 2003.

Real Gone, Anti, 2004.

One from the Heart, Legacy, 2004.

The Classic Interviews, 2006.

Beautiful Maladies: The Island Years, Universal Japan, 2008.

Other albums include The Days of Wine and Roses, I Am Seeking Rest for My Lonely Heart, I'll Take New York, Italian Dream, and I Wish I Was in New Orleans/ I'll Take New York Part 2. Contributor to recordings by other artists, including Johnny Cash, Primus, the Rolling Stones, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Bonnie Raitt, and Gavin Bryars. Also recorded numerous singles. Other recordings include The Black Rider: Outtakes, Cold Beer on a Hot Night, Downtown Blues, Drunk on the Moon, Every Time I Hear This Melody, The Heart of the Shaboo Night, I'm a Jackoff of All Trades, Invitation to the Blues, I Sing You under the Table, Live in Hollywood, Mainstreet, Mathilda, A Nickel's Worth of Dreams, On a Foggy Night, On Broadway, One Night Stand, Rendezvous at Midnight, Romeo Is Bleeding, Shadows of Intolerance, TV Dinner—Live 1977-1992.

Soundtrack Recordings; Contributor:

Bad Timing, 1980.

Divine Madness, Warner Bros. Records., 1980.

On the Nickel, 1980.

Wolfen, Warner Bros., 1981.

The King of Comedy, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1983.

Prenom Carmen, 1984.

Streetwise, 1985.

Down by Law, 1986.

Ironweed, 1987.

Let's Get Lost, 1988.

Bearskin: An Urban Fairytale, 1989.

Sea of Love, Universal, 1989.

(With Kathleen Brennan) American Heart, 1992.

Also contributor to In una notte di chiaro di luna (also known as On a Moonlit Night).

Music Videos:

"Under Review," MVD, 1971-1982.

"In the Neighborhood," 1983.

"Temptation," c. 1987.

"Big Time," 1988.

"Goin' out West," c. 1993.

"I Don't Wanna Grow Up," 1993.

"Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet," 1993.

"Hold On," 1999.

"Burma Shave," Alpha Centauri, 2007.

Also recorded the music video "Downtown Train."

Videos:

Blow Wind Blow, Island Video, c. 1995.

Not in Our Name: Dead Man Walking-The Concert, 1998.

Spotlight on Location: Mystery Men, 2000.

The Soul of Saturday Night, Malashock Dance, 2003.

The Dream Studio, American Zoetrope, 2004.

WRITINGS

Plays:

(With Kathleen Brennan) Frank's Wild Years, Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago, IL, 1986.

Stage Music; Composer and Lyricist:

Bette Midler's Clams on the Half Shell Revue, Minskoff Theatre, New York City, 1975.

Frank's Wild Years, Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago, IL, 1986.

(With William S. Burroughs and Robert Wilson) The Black Rider (opera; based on a German folk opera), produced in Hamburg, Germany, 1990, then Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City, 1994.

(With Kathleen Brennan) Alice (opera; based on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), produced in Hamburg, Germany, 1992, then Brooklyn Academy of Music, 1995.

(With Kathleen Brennan) Woyzeck (based on the work by Georg Bruechner), Betty Nansen Theatre, Denmark, 2000.

Screenplays:

Big Time, 1988.

Film Scores:

A Wedding, 1978.

Den Tuchtigen gehort die welt, 1981.

One from the Heart, Columbia, 1982.

Streetwise, 1985.

Music for "Poor Little Lamb," Ironweed, TriStar, 1987.

Candy Mountain, 1987.

Wohin?, 1987.

Big Time, 1988.

Crystal or Ash, Fire or Wind, As Love As It's Love, 1989.

In una notte di chiaro di luna (also known as On a Moonlit Night), 1989.

Sea of Love, Universal, 1989.

Wait until Spring, Bandini, Cine Productions, 1989.

Orult es angyal, 1989.

The Black Rider, 1990.

(With Kathleen Brennan) Night on Earth, Fine Line Features, 1991.

American Heart, 1992.

Leolo, Fine Line Features, 1992.

Dead Man Walking, Gramercy Pictures, 1995.

Smoke (also known as Smoke—Raucher unter sich), Miramax, 1995.

Twelve Monkeys (also known as 12 Monkeys), Universal, 1995.

Herencia, 1995.

Basquiat (also known as Build a Fort, Set It on Fire), Miramax, 1996.

Generation X, 1996.

Bunny, 1998.

The Specialist (also known as Ein Spezialist, Un specialiste, and Un specialiste, portrait d'un criminel moderne), Kino International, 1999.

El Plantador de arboles, 2001.

The Last Castle, 2001.

Don't Say a Word, 2005.

Composer for Yotyo (Finnish film; also known as Night Job).

Film Music; Songs:

Bad Timing (also known as Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession), 1980.

Title song, On the Nickel, 1980.

"Shiver Me Timbers," Divine Madness, Warner Bros., 1980.

"The One That Got Away," Tom Waits for No One, 1981.

"On the Nickel," Tuchtigen gehort die welt, 1981.

One from the Heart, Columbia, 1982.

"Rainbow Sleeves," The King of Comedy, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1983.

Prenom Carmen (also known as First Name: Carmen), 1984.

Streetwise, 1985.

Songs, Down by Law, Island, 1986.

Big Time, 1988.

"Jersey Girl," Let's Get Lost, 1988.

Bearskin: An Urban Fairytale (also known as Bearskin and Na pele do urso), 1989.

Night on Earth, Fine Line, 1991.

"Jersey Girl," Jersey Girl, 1992.

"01'55," Fumbling Towards Ecstacy Live (video), 1994.

"Jockey Full of Bourbon," Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, Miramax, 1995.

Georgia, Miramax, 1995.

Little Criminals, 1995.

Smoke (also known as Smoke—Raucher unter sich), Miramax, 1995.

"I Don't Wanna Grow Up," La Buena Vida (also known as The Good Life), 1996.

"Little Drop of Poison," The End of Violence, 1997.

"I Hope I Don't Fall in Love with You," Trojan War (also known as Rescue Me), 1997.

"Walking Spanish," Johnny Skidmarks, 1998.

"Walking Spanish," Permanent Midnight, Artisan Entertainment, 1998.

"Black Wings," Condo Painting, 1999.

"Goin' out West," Fight Club, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1999.

"Halloween Strip" and "It's Over," Liberty Heights, 1999.

"(Lookin' for) The Heart of Saturday Night," Limbo, 1999.

"(Lookin' for) The Heart of Saturday Night," The Perfect Storm, Warner Bros., 1999.

End title song, Pollock, Sony Pictures Classics, 2000.

Keeping the Faith, Buena Vista, 2000.

"More Than Rain," Gun Shy (also known as Gunshy), Buena Vista, 2000.

"Get Behind the Music," The Last Castle, DreamWorks, 2001.

Big Bad Love, IFC, 2001.

"Swordfishtrombone," Night at the Golden Eagle, Keystone, 2002.

"A Soldier's Things," Project: Valkyrie, Maxim, 2002.

"On the Otherside of the World," Los Lunes al sol (also known as Les Lundis au soleil, I Lunedi al sole, and Mondays in the Sun), Lions Gate, 2002.

"Diamond in Your Mind," The United States of Leland, United International, 2003.

"Walk Away," The Big Empty, Artisan, 2003.

"Saw Sage," Coffee and Cigarettes, United Artists, 2003.

"Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen," Noviembre (also known as November), Kairos, 2003.

"Little Drop of Poison," Shrek 2, DreamWorks, 2004.

"Jersey Girl," Jersey Girl, Miramax, 2004.

"Old Shoes," Around the Bend, Warner Independent, 2004.

"Flash Pan Hunter (Intro)," In the Realms of the Unreal, Mongrel, 2004.

"Innocent When You Dream (78)," In the Realms of the Unreal, Mongrel, 2004.

"I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love with You," The Prince & Me, Paramount, 2004.

"Heart Attack and Vine," Hellboy (also known as Super Sapiens), Columbia, 2004.

"FAWN," Yes, 2004.

"I Don't Want to Grow Up," Ramones Raw, Image, 2004.

"Underground," Robots, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2005.

Songs, Domino, New Line Cinema, 2005.

"Looks Like I'm," Daltry Calhoun, Miramax, 2005.

"All the World Is Green," The Secret Life of Words (also known as La Vida secreta de las palabras, and La Vida secreta de les paraules), RCV, 2005.

"Soldier's Things," Jarhead, Universal, 2005.

"Dead and Lovely," Wristcutters: A Love Story (also known as Pizzeria Kamikaze), Lions Gate, 2005.

"All the World Is Green," The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Miramax, 2007.

Television Songs; Miniseries:

"On the Nickel," The Atlanta Child Murders, CBS, 1985.

Television Music; Specials:

The Best Hotel on Skid Row, HBO, 1990.

Badry's Alibi, 2000.

Television Theme Music; Series:

The Wire, HBO, 2004-2008.

Television Music; Episodic:

"In the Heart of Saturday Night," Fame, 1984.

"'Til the Money Runs Out," Homicide: Life on the Street (also known as Homicide), 1996.

"Cold Cold Ground," Homicide: Life on the Street (also known as Homicide), 1996.

Songs, Independent Lens, 2005.

"The World Keeps Turning," ER, NBC, 2007.

Songs, Parashat Ha-Shavua, 2008.

Television Music; Movies:

"Clap Hands," Little Criminals, 1995.

Sheet Music:

Tom Waits—Anthology, Amsco Publications, 1988.

Tom Waits: Big Time, Amsco Publications, 1988.

Sylvia Plachy's Unguided Tour (sheet music and interviews), Aperture (New York City), 1990.

Tom Waits: Beautiful Maladies, Amsco Publications, 1997.

ADAPTATIONS

Tom Waits's music and lyrics formed the basis of a multimedia solo performance, Tom Waits, Me and Dogs by Barbara Baker, performed at Luna Stage Company, Montclair, NJ, 2000.

OTHER SOURCES

Books:

Humphries, Patrick, Small Change: A Life of Tom Waits, St. Martin's Press (New York City), 1989, second edition, 1997.

Periodicals:

Billboard, March 20, 1999, p. 11.

Magnet, June/July, 1999, p. 51.

Newsweek, May 10, 1999, pp. 82-83.

Rolling Stone, June 24, 1999, pp. 37-40.

Village Voice, June 1, 1999, p. 76.

Electronic:

Tom Waits Website,http://www.tomwaits.com, June 29, 2008.

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"Waits, Tom 1949-." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Waits, Tom

Tom Waits

Singer, songwriter, actor

Although he has applied his many talents to acting and composing for stage and screen, Tom Waits's performances on albums and in concert have remained his trademark. His rumpled suits, his rough and gravelly voice, and his songs about downtrodden but hopeful characters all make a Waits performance instantly recognizable. Still, there have been changes in Waits's music. Early on, his songs showed the influence of the jazz and blues he had listened to as a child. Over time he became more experimental, showing classical influences and a willingness to use any object that could make a sound as an instrument. Then, after his 1992 album Bone Machine, Waits seemingly stopped recording new material, releasing only retrospectives and music from movies and musicals. This hiatus ended in 1999 with the release of Mule Variations, where he brought together the various sounds and styles from his entire career.

The way life began for Waits sounds like something that might have happened in one of his songs. He was born in a taxicab outside a hospital in Pomona, California, on December 7, 1949. His parents taught school, but more important for Waits, his father taught him how to build Heathkit radios. On his crystal sets he heard radio programs from around the country, and listened to the blues of Ray Charles and Leadbelly, the country music of Johnny Horton and Floyd Cramer, and the rock and roll played by Wolfman Jack. While his musical tastes were forming, so were his literary ones, as he discovered the works of the Beat authors, especially Jack Kerouac and his best-known work, the novel On the Road.

Waits took to the road himself, heading to Los Angeles, California. There he continued to be fascinated with the lives of the people who populated the city late at night, who were living on the margins of society. These people became a sources for the songs that he began performing around the city. His appearance on stage meshed with his characters. Dressed in a rumpled old suit and often wearing a porkpie hat, Waits would brandish a cigarette or a drink while telling stories between songs. He became well known on the Los Angeles club circuit, and during a 1969 stint at the Troubadour, a legendary West Hollywood club, he signed a contract with rock manager Herb Cohen. Still, he remained a songwriter and stage performer until 1973, when his first album, Closing Time, was released on the Asylum label.

Weird Life on the Road

Even though he had signed with a major record company, Waits did not lead the stereotypical life of a rock star. Living in Los Angeles, he roomed at the Tropicana Hotel, a residence more seedy than luxurious. He stayed at similar places when he toured. He explained his reasons to David Fricke of Rolling Stone: "I would wind up in these very strange places—these rooms with stains on the wallpaper, foggy voices down the hall, sharing a bathroom with a guy with a hernia. I'd watch TV with old men in the lobby. I knew there was music in those places—and stories. That's what I was looking for." Many of his early gigs were not all that glamorous, either. At one time he found himself performing in front of children, serving as the opening act for 1950s children's television star Buffalo Bob and his famous marionette Howdy Doody. Even when opening for other rock acts, Waits wasn't really comfortable. On a tour with Frank Zappa, Waits had what he described to Fricke as his "first experience with rodeos and hockey arenas … It was like Frankenstein, with the torches, the whole thing."

While the life of a rock and roll star didn't appeal to Waits, his music appealed to many of the stars themselves. Artists such as the Eagles, Bette Midler, and Bruce Springsteen all recorded their own versions of Waits's songs from the 1970s and 1980s. Waits was prolific throughout the decade, releasing a total of eight albums on Asylum from 1973 through 1981, including The Heart of Saturday Night in 1974, Small Change in 1977, and Heart Attack and Vine in 1980. Steve Huey of All Music Guide summarized Waits's music during this period as "a mix of Beat poetry recited over jazz-trio backing and blues, alcohol-soaked piano and/or orchestral balladry." The 1975 live album Nighthawks at the Diner captured the full Waits stage performance, laced with the story telling and one-liners that he interspersed between his musical performances.

Waits's penchant for performing led him into acting. He made his film debut with a small part in the Sylvester Stallone film Paradise Alley in 1978. Waits went on to appear in numerous films, working with such respected directors as Robert Altman (Short Cuts), Terry Gilliam (The Fisher King), Jim Jarmusch (several films, most notably Down by Law), and Francis Ford Coppola (several films, including Bram Stoker's Dracula). Working with Jarmusch and Coppola also gave Waits the opportunity to write soundtracks. A collaboration with Coppola also led Waits to one of the most important events of his life and career. While writing the soundtrack for One from the Heart, he met script editor Kathleen Brennan. The two married in 1980, and while she changed his life in small ways, such as not allowing him to wear his suits to bed, she also influenced his song writing by encouraging him to open up musically.

A Musical Marriage

Waits's first album after their marriage was 1983's Swordfishtrombones, which marked the beginning of a new sound for him, one that came out of collaborating with Brennan. He described her liberating influence to Gil Kaufman and Michael Goldberg at the Addicted to Noise website: "You try to reconcile the fact that you like Collapsing New Buildings and Skip James and Elmer Bernstein and Nick Cave and Beefheart and Eric Satie and all this stuff that you don't know what to do with. I guess it was her [sic] that gave me the notion that you can find some reconciliation between these things that you like. That was the beginning, and we've been working together since then." Among the new elements to appear in Waits's arrangements during this time were the influence of German composer Kurt Weill, as well as the use of sounds made by everyday objects. Waits told Fricke, "I'm the kind of bandleader who when he says, ‘Don't forget to bring the Fender,’ I mean the fender from the Dodge."

For the Record …

Born Thomas Alan Waits, December 7, 1949, in Pomona, CA (some sources say Whittier); son of Jesse Frank Waits and Alma (Johnson) McMurray (both school teachers); married Kathleen Patricia Brennan (script editor and playwright), August 10, 1980; children: Casey, Kellesimone, and Sullivan.

Began performing in night clubs in Los Angeles and Hollywood, CA, late 1960s; released first album, Closing Time, on Asylum, 1973; made film acting debut in Paradise Alley, 1978; began writing film scores, 1980; composed, co-produced, and starred in stage musical Frank's Wild Years, 1986; collaborated on stage musical The Black Rider, 1993; released most commercially successful album, Mule Variations, 1999; released boxed set of rare and unreleased material, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards, 2006.

Awards: Rolling Stone Magazine Music Critics' Picks for best songwriter, 1985; Grammy Award, Best Alternative Album, for Bone Machine, 1992.

Addresses: Home—P. O. Box 498, Valley Ford, CA 94972-0498. Record company—Epitaph Records, 2798 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026-2102.

While Waits's music and instruments changed over time, the lyrics of his songs continued to explore the lives of the down-and-out and the dispossessed. Waits and Brennan wrote from everyday life, although they exaggerated a bit. Waits told Fricke, "If I know three things about my neighbor, I take those, and that's enough for me to go on. Everybody mixes truth and fiction. If you're stuck for a place for a story to go, you make up the part you need." In an interview with Jonathan Valania of Magnet, Waits stressed the impor- tance of making the setting for the song feel authentic. "Every song needs to be anatomically correct: You need weather, you need the name of the town, something to eat—every song needs certain ingredients to be balanced."

Swordfishtrombones marked a change in the tone of Waits's songs. MusicHound Rock described the songs from the 1970s as "sentimental in the way people get after a few too many cocktails," but by the time Bone Machine was released in 1992, Waits's material was the "most harrowing ever." Even this material appealed to other artists. Rod Stewart scored a hit with his cover of "Downtown Train" from 1985's Raindogs. Bone Machine brought Waits recognition from the recording industry when it won a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Performance. Evidently Waits didn't think much of the award designation. Jim Jarmusch reported Waits's reaction to Valania: "He flipped out when he got the Grammy. He hated that. ‘Alternative to what?! What the hell does that mean?’"

Stage, Screen, But No Studio

Following Bone Machine Waits turned his attention away from the studio and toward the stage. He had already collaborated with Brennan on the musical Frank's Wild Years (1987), the story of an accordion player recalling his life while freezing on a park bench. In 1993 Waits teamed with legendary Beat author William Burroughs and composer Robert Wilson on a musical called The Black Rider, based on a nineteenth century German folk opera about a man who makes a Faustian bargain with the devil so that he can marry the woman he loves. Waits then worked with Wilson on an operatic adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. He also continued composing for movies, collaborating with Brennan on the music for the Oscar-winning animated short subject Bunny in 1998.

In 1999 Waits released Mule Variations, his first album of new material not related to stage or screen work in seven years. It immediately became Waits's largest commercial success. Only two of his previous albums had even cracked the Billboard Top 100, but Mule Variations debuted at number 30 on the charts. The album also achieved good critical notices, with many reviews pointing out that all the sounds and styles of Waits's earlier recordings appeared here in various songs. Valania wrote, "Mule Variations, his first album in seven years, and possibly his best, finds him moving full circle." As usual, Brennan collaborated with Waits on the album, receiving co-writing credit on two-thirds of the songs. The couple composed on a rented piano in a hotel room, a process that Waits described to Fricke as "a sack race. You learn to move forward together." Reviewing the album in the Village Voice, Robert Christgau wrote, "Together they humanize the percussion-battered Bone Machine sound, reconstituting his '80s alienation effects into a Delta harshness with more give to it—enough to accommodate a tenderness that's never soft."

Ironically, after all his years of recording for major labels, this most commercially successful of Waits's albums appeared on Epitaph records, an independent company known for its punk rock emphasis. Bradley Bambarger of Billboard reported that Waits "wanted to avoid what he calls ‘the plantation system’ of the music business." For Waits, remaining independent of the business dealings of major record labels brought him the freedom to make the kind of music he wanted, and to take seven years between album releases if he so chose. Comparing song writing to fishing, Waits told Fricke that it didn't matter how frequently he produced new work: "So you don't want to fish for a couple of weeks, a couple of years? The fish will get along fine without you."

In 2002 Waits simultaneously released Blood Money and Alice. The former was a song cycle written with Brennan for a stage production by Robert Wilson, based on the nineteenth century play Woyzeck by Georg Buchner. The songs were dark and moody, based on the true story of a German soldier driven insane by infidelity and medical experiments, who subsequently murders his unfaithful lover. Guest artists on the album included blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite, Police drummer Stewart Copeland, and guitarist Larry Taylor. The songs on Alice were written in 1990 as part of a stage collaboration with Robert Wilson and Brennan, and are based on the life of Alice Liddell, the young muse who inspired Lewis Carroll's most famous literary character, Alice. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass have provided ample fodder for literary critics, psychoanalysts, etymologists, and philosophers since their publication in the nineteenth century. Both albums were critically well received, and furthered Waits's reputation as one of the twentieth century's most daring, wide-ranging, and creative composers in any field of music. For the 2004 release Real Gone, Waits once again enlisted the aid of guitarist Larry Taylor, and also brought bassist Les Claypool and guitarist Marc Ribot into the mix. Waits's son, Casey Waits, contributed percussion and turntable duties on an album that, for some critics, seemed to be Waits marking time until real inspiration struck. All Music Guide critic Thom Jurek, while assessing the album as more of an experiment than an aesthetic success, acknowledged that the effort included the song "The Day after Tomorrow," which Jurek called "one of the most insightful and understated antiwar songs to have been written in decades. It contains not a hint of banality or sentiment in its folksy articulation." In 2006 Waits cleaned out the garage, attic, basement, tool shed, and fruit cellar of his copious and creative past for Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards, a three-disc anthology of rare and unreleased songs spanning his entire career. The set was a treasure trove for Waits's fans looking to complete their collection, but has also served as a terrific entrée into the oeuvre of one of the most challenging and compelling pop artists since Captain Beefheart.

Selected discography

Closing Time, Elektra/Asylum, 1973.

The Heart of Saturday Night, Elektra/Asylum, 1974.

Nighthawks at the Diner, Elektra/Asylum, 1975.

Small Change, Elektra/Asylum, 1976.

Foreign Affairs, Elektra/Asylum, 1977.

Blue Valentine, Elektra/Asylum, 1978.

Heart Attack and Vine, Elektra/Asylum, 1980.

Bounced Checks, Elektra/Asylum, 1981.

One From the Heart, Columbia, 1982.

Swordfishtrombones, Island, 1983.

Asylum Years, Elektra/Asylum, 1985.

Anthology, Elektra/Asylum, 1985.

The Asylum Years, Elektra/Asylum, 1985.

Rain Dogs, Island, 1985.

Frank's Wild Years, Island, 1987.

Big Time, Island, 1988.

Bone Machine, Island, 1992.

Night on Earth, Island, 1992.

The Black Rider, Island, 1993.

Beautiful Maladies: The Island Years, Island, 1998.

Mule Variations, Epitaph, 1999.

Alice, Epitaph, 2002.

Blood Money, Epitaph, 2002.

Real Gone, Epitaph, 2004.

Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards, Epitaph, 2006.

Sources

Books

MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1999.

Periodicals

Billboard, March 20, 1999, p. 11.

Magnet, June/July 1999, p. 51.

Rolling Stone, June 24, 1999, p. 37.

Village Voice, June 1, 1999, p. 76.

Online

"Tom Waits," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com/ (November 26, 1999; March 10, 2007).

"Tom Waits '99: The ATN Interview," Addicted to Noise,http://www.addict.com/ (November 26, 1999).

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Waits, Tom

Tom Waits

Singer, songwriter, actor

Discovered Beat Poets

Film Career Took Off

Collaborated on Stage Productions

Selected compositions

Selected discography

Sources

Tom Waits, the poet of the downtrodden, entertains listeners with his graveyard-growl voice, sophisticated lyrics and melodies, and haunting junkyard orchestration. Since his recording debut in 1973, Waits has cut over 15 albums, including Swordfishtrombones, Franks Wild Years, and Bone Machine. A respected actor with more than 15 film credits, he has also become a successful playwright with his stage adaptation of Franks Wild Yearsand his collaboration on the musical The Black Rider.

From the very beginning, Waits has been an original. Born to a middle-class family in Whittier, California, in 1949, Thomas Alan Waits made his entrance into the world in the back seat of a Yellow cab. Though both of his parents were schoolteachers, Waits considered high school a joke and dropped out to join the work force. I listened to records and got into trouble, he told the Minneapolis Star.Ya see, I was a bit of an insubordinate ... in academic situations. I wanted to own a gas station.

Mark Richard in Spin, however, related that Waitss father was in a mariachi band and taught him to play guitar on low-end Mexican specials that cost $9 and lasted two weeks, bending so that the strings were three inches off the neck, and you had to play the things with welding gloves. Richard also noted that the elder Waits had been a radio technician in World War II and would help his son build Heathkit radios; he used the wireless sets to pick up Wolfman Jack and evangelist Brother Springer from Oklahoma City.

Discovered Beat Poets

As a teenager Waits wasnt swept up into his generations culture of flower power, free love, peace, drugs, and Woodstock. I was a misfit, Waits told Newsweek.I didnt have any Jimi Hendrix posters up on my wall. I didnt even have a black light. What made him tick was writing songs, playing an old guitar and piano, working the 6:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. shift at the pizza parlor, and listening to Ray Charles, George Gershwin, Frank Sinatra, and the blues as he cruised the open road.

But Waits also read a lot, and he discovered the works of Beat author Jack Kerouac. The Beat Generation was a name given to a group of American writersincluding Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughswho through their poetry, novels, and jazz poetry albums rejected the middle-class values and commercialism of the 1950s. Kerouacs 1957 book On the Road is considered the masterpiece of the Beat Generation, and to this day it remains Waitss favorite book.

For the Record

Born Thomas Alan Waits, December 7, 1949, in Whittier (one source says Pomona), CA; son of Jesse Frank Waits and Alma (Johnson) McMurray (both schoolteachers); married Kathleen Patricia Brennan (a script editor and playwright), August 10, 1980; children: Kelle-simone Wylder (daughter), Casey Xavier (son), one other child.

Began performing professionally in nightclubs in Hollywood and Los Angeles, CA, late 1960s; received first record contract with Asylum, 1972; released debut album, Closing Time, 1973; made acting debut in Paradise Alley, 1978; composed film scores, beginning in 1980; coproduced and starred in the musical play Franks Wild Years, 1986; collaborated on the musical play The Black Rider, 1993.

Awards: Academy Award nomination for best original score, 1983, for One From the Heart; Rolling Stone Magazine Music AwardCritics Picks for Best Songwriter, 1985 ; Grammy Award for best alternative album, 1992, for Bone Machine; awarded guitar by Club Tenco, Italy.

Addresses: Office c/o Ellen Smith, 11 Eucalyptus Lane, San Rafael, CA 94901. Record company Island Records, 400 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10003.

By his late teens, Waits was being drawn to the underbelly of Los Angeles. The lonely, burnt-out characters of the night and snatches of their conversations took root in his mind and became the source for his songs, as did much of his experience from these days of inhabiting f leabag motels, composing in greasy spoons and seedy bars, and hitching rides with truck drivers from gig to gig.

In the late 1960s Waits became a doorman at a small club. I listened to all kinds of music there, he told Rolling Stone, from rock to jazz to folk to anything else that happened to walk in. One night I saw a local guy onstage playing his own material. I dont know why but at that moment I knew what I wanted to do: live or die on the strength of my own music.

By the time Tom Waits was discovered in 1969 at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, California, he already had a cult following. Herb Cohen, manager for such artists as Frank Zappa and Linda Ronstadt, signed him on, and three years later Waits was picked up by

Asylum Records and cut his first album. Closing Time won him an immediate audience and made fans out of contemporaries like Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Keith Richards, and Bonnie Raitt. Under the Asylum label, Waits put out eight albums between 1973 and 1981. Several of Waitss songs from that period were made famous by other artists, including Or 55, sung by the Eagles, Bette Midlers rendition of Shiver Me Timbers, and Bruce Springsteens Jersey Girl.

Film Career Took Off

Waits used his stage personathe thin, bent figure in a wrinkled secondhand suit, holding a cigarette butt in one hand and snapping his fingers with the other, while delivering whiskey-voiced scat into the spotlight microphoneto develop his skills as an actor. Waits began with a bit part in Paradise Alley with Sylvester Stallone in 1978 and subsequently acted in more than 15 films, including roles in Francis Copollas The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, Ironweed, and The Cotton Club.

Perhaps his finest work was in the 1986 film Down by the Law, directed by Jim Jarmusch. Waits also produced and starred in Big Time in 1988, a tale of a drifter who dreams of a successful music career. He has also written film scores, including On the Nickle, 1980; One From the Heart, 1983; Streetwise, 1985; and Jarmuschs Night on Earth, 1993.

Waitss music has continued to gain recognition. In the 1980s Waits himself produced the albums Swordfish-trombones, Rain Dogs, and Franks Wild Years, all released by Island Records. In his later music, such as the 1992 Grammy Award-winning album Bone Machine, Waits departed from his earlier tradition of sung jazz to search for raw sound with all the fluff stripped away. To me, Waits explained in the New York Times, everything is really musicwords are music, every sound is music, it all depends on how its organized.

The New York Times compared Bone Machine to the three earlier albums: The dominant image over those three albums, both in lyrics and in the organ-grinder tilt of the music, was the carnival. This album is what the carnival fairgrounds might look like after the carnival has left town.... Instead of Waitss former snake-pit orchestra of swamp guitar, honking saxophone, wheezing accordion and pump organ, the songs here are constructed on a percussive skeleton of bangs and twonks. Waits recorded Bone Machine in a shed with musicians, friends, and his wife, Kathleen Brennan, banging on metal and wood with sticks.

Collaborated on Stage Productions

While his music has become more surreal, Waitss characters have taken on more substance. His earlier work was typically filled with a stream of forgotten drunks, prostitutes, tired waitresses, and two-bit hustlers with dreams of making it big. But the story of Frank, a character who first appeared in Swordfishtrombones, was developed into Franks Wild Years, a stage musical by Waits and his wife that premiered in 1986 at Chicagos Steppenwolf Theater. The musical presents the saga of Frank OBrien, a down-and-out accordion player on a hallucinatory journey through his life as he sits freezing to death on a park bench. The record of the same name was released the following year.

In 1993, Waits collaborated with Robert Willson and William Burroughs, the Beat godfather, on a dark and satirical avant-garde version of Carl Maria von Webers 1821 folk opera Der Freischütz. The Black Rider is based, like Webers work, on a fable about a desperate man who makes a deal with the devil in order to win the right to marry his beloved. The rich dizzying tunes, noted a reviewer in Rolling Stone, incorporate graveyard fright noises, bizarre piano sounds and creepy sci-fi whistles into traditional, orchestrated Fiddler on the Roof-style melodies. Spins Richard related that the show was a hit in Europe and New York.

Waits, the self-titled sound scavenger, was married in 1980 and has three children. His work has grown steadily stronger, more ambitious, and more commercially successful. Characterizing his unique creativity, a writer in the New York Times commented that Waits honors the emotional lives of his humble characters. His lyrics ... express what might be described as a primal sentimentality. His heart bleeds for characters who cry out their needs and dreams in songs that sound like reassembled fragments of tunes learned as a child.

Selected compositions

OntheNickle, 1980.

One From the Heart (film score), 1983.

Streetwise (film score), 1985.

Night on Earth (film score), 1993.

(With wife, Kathleen Brennan) Franks Wild Years (musical), first produced at the Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago, IL, 1986.

(With Robert Willson and William S. Burroughs) The Black Rider (musical), 1993.

Selected discography

On Elektra/Asylum

Closing Time, 1973, reissued, 1993.
The Heart of Saturday Night, 1974.
Nighthawks at the Diner, 1975.
Foreign Affairs, 1977.
Small Change, 1977.
Blue Valentine, 1978.
Heart Attack and Vine, 1980.
Asylum Years, 1984.
Anthology, 1985.

On CBS

One From the Heart, 1982.

On Island

Swordfishtrombones, 1983.

Rain Dogs, 1985.

Franks Wild Years, 1987.

Big Time, 1988.

Bone Machine, 1992.

(With William S. Burroughs) Black Rider, 1993.

Sources

Books

Humphries, Patrick, Small Change: A Life of Tom Waits, St. Martins Press, 1989.

Periodicals

Audio, February 1984; December 1987.

Down Beat, March 1986.

High Fidelity, December 1985.

Interview, October 1988.

Minneapolis Star, December 22, 1975.

National Observer, January 5, 1976.

New Statesman, October 1985.

Newsweek, April 23, 1976.

New York Times, September 27, 1992; November 14, 1993; November 22, 1993; December 5, 1993.

People, October 21, 1985; September 28, 1987.

Playboy, March 1988.

Rolling Stone, January 27,1977; October 1988; October 29, 1992; March 3, 1994.

Spin, June 1994.

Stereo Review, September 1987.

Iva Sipal

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Waits, Tom

Tom Waits

Singer, songwriter, pianist

For the Record

Writings

Selected discography

Sources

Saturday Review made this observation about Tom Waits: No other musician creates a separate reality as engrossing, convincing, or terrifying as the one Tom Waits invents each time he makes a record. You dont just put on a Waits album. You think about it first. Then you pour yourself a drink. Tom Waits is well known for a lifestyle close to the fringes. He prefers to sleep in derelict hotels, eat in greasy spoons, drink in forgotten bars, and smoke Pall Malls. His songs are populated with the characters he meets in unsavory places.

Born in a taxicab in Pomona, Waits grew up in Southern California and then became the piano bar drifter whose life is so aptly characterized in his songs. He was discovered playing piano in a bar and released his first album, Closing Time, an acoustic set of blues and ballads, in 1977. He became well known for his gravely voice and jazz/blues-based songs with their sentimental, and starkly real, look at the other side of life. His albums held to this expected style, with an increasing use of backing instruments, until the release of the unusual Swordfishtrombones in 1983. New Statesman described the album as junkyard orchestral deviation, a series of fragments from a semi-legible journal in which Waits and his band play just about anything that comes to hand, as long as it makes noise.

In an interview in Playboy Waits commented on this move toward a less organized, more discordant sound: I was cutting off a very small part of what I wanted to do. I wasnt getting down to things I was really hearing and experiencing. Music with a lot of strings gets like Perry Como after awhile. Its why I dont really work with the piano much anymore, like, anybody who plays the piano would thrill at seeing and hearing one thrown off a 12-story building, watching it hit the sidewalk and being there to hear that thump.High Fidelity looked at the album this way: With Swordfishtrombones Waits turned minimalist in instrumental approach and surrealist in lyrical and general atmosphere, not so much eccentric as artistically ambitious. It was as if he imagined Kurt Weill and Captain Beefheart running into each other on an empty Hollywood sound stage while Coppola lurked in his computer programmed trailer ready to film the encounter in glorious living black and white and Waits himself transcribed the score.

The reference to filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola is apt. Waits began working with Coppola in 1982 when he wrote the soundtrack for One from the Heart. The score was nominated for an Academy Award. Then he began his acting career, playing character roles in the Coppola films Rumble Fish (1983), The Cotton Club (1984), and The Outsiders (1987). He also played

For the Record

Full name, Thomas Alan Waits; born December 7, 1949, in Pomona, Calif.; son of Frank W. and Alma (Johnson) McMurray; married Kathleen Patricia Brennan (a playwright), August 10, 1980; children: Kellesimone Wylder, Casey.

Sang and played in bars prior to being discovered in 1977; recording artist and performer, 1977. Composer of musical scores for films, including On the Nickle, 1980, One from the Heart, 1983, and Streetwise, 1985. Actor in motion pictures, including Paradise Alley, 1978, The Outsiders, 1983, Rumble Fish, 1983, The Cotton Club, 1984, Down By Law, 1986, Ironweed, 1987, and Shakedown, 1988.

Awards: Academy Award nomination for best song score, 1983, for film One from the Heart; won award from Club Tenco, Italy.

Addresses: Office c/o Island Records, 7720 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90046.

major roles in Down by Law (1986) and Ironweed (1987).

Waits met his wife, playwright Kathleen Brennan, in 1988. With her he cowrote the play Franks Wild Years, which was produced by Chicagos Steppenwolf Company in summer 1988. Stereo Review described the play:Franks Wild Years began as a song from Swordfishtrombones about a man who gets drunk one night and sets fire to his house with his wife and Chihuahua inside. Frank then took on a life of his own in a musical play about a down-and-out lounge singer who, sitting on a park bench in East St. Louis, is freezing to death and reliving his life in a semi-hallucinatory state. Franks Wild Years [the album] includes many of the songs from the play, but it further develops the musical settings of Franks reminiscences.

When asked by Playboy how his involvement with theater and film affected his music, Waits replied: Just that Im more comfortable stepping into characters in songs. On Franks Wild Years, I did it in Til Take New York and Straight to the Top. Ive learned how to be different musical characters without feeling like Im eclipsing myself. On the contrary, you discover a whole family living inside you. Waits saw the album Franks Wild Years (1987) as the completion of a trilogy of albums, beginning with Swordfishtrombones (1983) and continued by Rain Dogs (1985). Audio had this observation about the album: Now, Waits has explored the beaten-down, seedy, and desperate, but his subjects have never been quite this odd. His voice has always been scruffy, but here he contorts it into the most bizarre shapes it has ever assumed. Franks Wild Years is disconcerting, challenging, even disturbing, as it dares you to explore dark places on its own terms.

Unlike most musicians who gravitate toward commercial compromises in their music, Stereo Review observed, Waits abandoned what few commercial pretensions he had left and began to make music of ever-increasing eccentricity and conviction. No longer are his characters romanticized symbols of life on the edges. Now they are real. In the midst of this period when Waits was pushing the limits of his art, Electra released Anthology, an excellent retrospective of his best recordings from his years on the Electra/Asylum label.

In 1988 Waits returned to film, producing his major performance and story film Big Time. Instead of a character actor, in this film he is the star. Yet, he is still in character as a drifter who fantasizes about making the big time in music. He discussed the film with Rolling Stone: What we tried to avoid is having a concert film that felt like a stuffed bird. I tried to film it like a Mexican cockfight instead of air-conditioned concert footage. Some of it felt like it was shot through a safari rifle. You forget about the cameras, which is what I was trying to do.Rolling Stone continued with this observation: But in spite of media attention, Tom Waits has remained an outsider. Its exactly that lonesome-drifter persona that has always made his work so compelling. The seams were invisible between the desolate characters in his songs and the character standing onstage with a jazzmans goatee, a secondhand suit and a hobos roar.

About his lack of drive for fame and awards, Waits told Playboy: Ive gotten only one award in my life, from a place called Club Tenco in Italy. They gave me a guitar made out of tigereye. Club Tenco was created as an alternative to the big San Remo festival they have every year. Its to commemorate the death of a big singer whos name was Tenco and who shot himself in the heart because hed lost at the San Remo Festival. For awhile it was popular in Italy for singers to shoot themselves in the heart. Thats my award.

Writings

Co-author (with wife, Kathleen Brennan) of musical play Franks Wild Years, 1987.

Selected discography

On Elektra/Asylum, except as noted

Closing Time, 1973.

Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night, 1974.

Nighthawks at the Diner, 1975.

Small Change, 1976.

Foreign Affairs, 1977.

Blue Valentine, 1978.

Heart Attack and Vine, 1980.

Swordfishtrombones, Island, 1983.

Rain Dogs, Island, 1985.

Anthology, 1985.

Franks Wild Years, Island, 1987.

Big Time, Island, 1988.

Sources

Audio, February, 1984; December, 1987.

down beat, March, 1986.

High Fidelity, December, 1985.

New Statesman, October, 1985.

People, October 21, 1985; September 28, 1987.

Playboy, March, 1988.

Rolling Stone, October, 1988.

Stereo Review, September, 1987.

Tim LaBorie

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Waits, Tom

TOM WAITS

Born: Pomona, California, 7 December 1949

Genre: Rock Folk, Jazz

Best-selling album since 1990: Mule Variations (1999)


Singer/songwriter Tom Waits, troubadour of the disenfranchised, pours his fascination with the seedy side of life into his music. His earlier work combines beat generation poetry with a folky, lounge-styled jazz and his later music flirts artfully with the grotesque as he experiments with visceral rhythmic schemes, orchestral journeying, and deformed vocals. One of America's most remarkable artists, Waits performs in the persona of his songs' characters, and it is rumored that he lives like them as well. Waits's songs are widely recorded by others and his musical forays extend into theater and film. Along the way, he forged a successful acting career.

Waits was born in a taxicab. His parents were teachers and the family lived nomadically all over California. Waits loved music early on and would spend hours tuning into whatever he could find on his homebuilt radio. In addition, he devoured the works of Jack Kerouac and other Beat generation writers. Eventually he dropped out of school and worked various dead-end jobs before moving to Los Angeles. There he attracted underground fame with his cigarette-dangling, drink-in-hand performance style. Waits also lived a lifestyle not unlike the characters in his songs, dressing in wrinkly suits, living in fleabag hotels, and frequenting after-hours bars. Even after finding success, Waits continued to reside in Los Angeles' Tropicana Motel, by no means a luxury hotel, but famous for harboring other denizens of the underground performing scene such as friend and fellow vagabond, singer Rickie Lee Jones.

His debut album, Closing Time (1973), displays his unique brand of smoky, blues-tinged jazz and his bizarre vocal quality suggests a sluggish impersonation of jazz legend Louis Armstrong. In some songs Waits speaks his lyrics in a funky ramble. Ambitiously recording throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Waits earned accolades for his songwriting, which contains heavy doses of wit and cynicism. Other artists began recording Waits's songs: The Eagles covered "Ol' 55," Bruce Springsteen had a huge hit with "Jersey Girl," Bette Midler had success with "Shiver Me Timbers," and Rod Stewart managed a career comeback with "Downtown Train."

Waits's style changed from poetic, jazzy ballads into uncharted musical territory with fishtrombones (1983). The album features abnormal time signatures and jarring instrumentation, and Waits transforms his voice into a gruesome grind. He also made use of homemade or found instruments such as glass and scrap metal. Swordfishtrombones was the first release of a trilogy with Rain Dogs (1985) and Frank's Wild Years (1987). His wife, Kathleen Brennen, a noted script editor and frequent collaborator, helped Waits turn the latter into a musical stage play produced at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater. Additionally, the 1980s kept him busy with acting roles in several films, including The Cotton Club (1984), Down by Law (1986), and Iron Weed (1987).

Waits won a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Performance with Bone Machine (1992). The album features raw, primal sounds and was his first studio album since 1987. Waits's vocal work reached new extremes, with Waits seemingly clearing his throat and spitting the songs' lyrics. As in Swordfishtrombones, his music is innovative and spare. The subject matter is darker than that of any previous creative attempts and many of the album's songs, in particular "Earth Died Screaming," "All Stripped Down," and "Dirt in the Ground," reveal a preoccupation with death and one's fate after death.

In 1991 Waits released a soundtrack to the film Night on Earth, directed by Jim Jarmusch, and the following year he released an album of compositions for an operetta that opened in Hamburg, Germany, The Black Rider (1993). The operetta was directed by Robert Wilson and its text was penned by legendary Beat poet William Burroughs. The seventy-nine-year-old Burroughs even sang on some of the operetta's soundtrack. (Burroughs died in 1997.) Waits's musical contribution on The Black Rider recalls the torch songs of Kurt Weill mixed with melodies and sounds one might hear when strolling through a traveling carnival. The operetta toured successfully in Europe, but failed in New York after a short run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. However, most critics praised Waits's music.

Waits waited nearly seven years before releasing his next non-soundtrack studio album, Mule Variations (1999), which turned out to be his most successful album commercially. Its sixteen songs are a rousing musical junkyard containing a mix of his 1970s sound and the exploratory style of his recent past with a little more blues tossed in. The album won a 1999 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

He followed with the simultaneous releases of Alice (2002) and Blood Money (2002), both works inspired by his increased interest in the theater. Alice is a stoic collection of songs from an opera that he wrote in 1992 and Blood Money is a song narrative based on the play Woyzeck.

Eighty major artists have recorded songs from Waits's nineteen albums. He has composed music for five stage plays and eleven films. Additionally, Waits has acted in eighteen films. To those who try to dissect his personal life, he remains a mystery, for he is a master at subterfuge and politely diverting questions with conversational tangents. Heralded as one of music's most talented artists, Waits uncompromisingly marches to his own enigmatic beat.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Closing Time (Elektra, 1973); The Heart of Saturday Night (Elektra, 1974); Nighthawks at the Diner (Elektra, 1975); Small Change (Elektra, 1976); Blue Valentine (Elektra, 1978); Swordfishtrombones (Island, 1983); Rain Dogs (Island, 1985); Frank's Wild Years (Island, 1987); Bone Machine (Island, 1992); Mule Variations (Epitaph, 1999); Alice (Epitaph, 2002); Blood Money (Epitaph, 2002). Soundtracks: One from the Heart (CBS, 1982); Night on Earth (Island, 1992); The Black Rider (Island, 1993).

SELECTIVE FILMOGRAPHY:

The Cotton Club (1984); Down by Law (1986); Iron Weed (1987); The Two Jakes (1990); At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991); Queen's Logic (1991); Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992); Short Cuts (1993); Mystery Man (1999).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

J. S. Jacobs, Wild Years: The Music and Myth of Tom Waits (Toronto, 2000).

donald lowe

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"Waits, Tom." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/waits-tom

Waits, Tom

Tom Waits

Singer, songwriter, actor

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Although he has applied his many talents to acting and composing for stage and screen, Tom Waitss performances on albums and in concert have remained his trademark. His rumpled suits, his rough and gravelly voice, and his songs about downtrodden but hopeful characters all make a Waits performance instantly recognizable. Still, there have been changes in Waitss music. Early on, his songs showed the influence of the jazz and blues he had listened to as a child. Over time he became more experimental, showing classical influences and a willingness to use any object that could make a sound as an instrument. Then, after his 1992 album, Bone Machine, Waits seemingly stopped recording new materials, releasing only retrospectives and music from movies and musicals. This hiatus ended in 1999 with the release of Mule Variations, in which he brought together the various sounds and styles from his entire career.

The way life began for Waits sounds like something that might have happened in one of his songs. He was born in a taxicab outside a hospital in Pomona, California, on December 7, 1949. His parents taught school, but more important for Waits, his father taught him how to build Heathkit radios. On his crystal sets he heard radio programs from around the country, listening to the blues of Ray Charles and Leadbelly, the country music of Johnny Horton and Floyd Cramer, and the rock and roll played by Wolf man Jack. While his musical tastes were forming, so were his literary ones, as he discovered the works of the Beat authors, especially Jack Kerouac and his best-known work, the novel On the Road.

Waits took to the road himself, heading to Los Angeles. There he continued his fascination with the lives of the people who populated the city late at night, living on the margins of society. These people became the sources for the songs that he started performing around the city. His appearance on stage meshed with his characters. Dressed in a rumpled old suit and often wearing a porkpie hat, Waits would brandish a cigarette or a drink while telling stories between songs. He became well known on the Los Angeles club circuit, and during a 1969 stint at the Troubadour, a legendary West Hollywood club, he signed a contract with rock manager Herb Cohen. Still, he remained a songwriter and stage performer until 1973, when his first album, Closing Time, came out on the Asylum label.

Even though he had signed with a major record company, Waits did not lead the stereotypical life of a rock star. Living in Los Angeles, he roomed at the Tropicana Hotel, a residence more seedy than luxurious. He stayed at similar places when he toured. He explained his reasons to David Fricke of Rolling Stone: I would wind up in these

For the Record

Born Thomas Alan Waits, December 7, 1949, in Pomona, CA (some sources say Whittier); son of Jesse Frank Waits and Alma (Johnson) McMurray, both school teachers; married Kathleen Patricia Brennan (script editor and playwright), August 10, 1980; children: Casey, Kellesimone, and Sullivan.

Began performing in night clubs in Los Angeles and Hollywood, CA, late 1960s; released first album, Closing Time, on Asylum, 1973; made film acting debut in Paradise Alley, 1978; began writing film scores, 1980; composed, co-produced, and starred in stage musical Franks Wild Years, 1986; collaborated on stage musical The Black Rider, 1993; released most commercially successful album, Mule Variations, 1999.

Awards: Rolling Stone Magazine Music Critics Picks for best songwriter, 1985; Grammy Award for best alternative album, Bone Machine, 1992.

Addresses: Record company Epitaph Records, 2798 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026-2102. Home P. O. Box 498, Valley Ford, CA 94972-0498.

very strange placesthese rooms with stains on the wallpaper, foggy voices down the hall, sharing a bathroom with a guy with a hernia. Id watch TV with old men in the lobby. I knew there was music in those places and stories. Thats what I was looking for. Many of his early gigs were not all that glamorous, either. At one time he found himself performing in front of children in the morning, serving as the opening act for 1950s childrens television star Buffalo Bob and his famous marionette, Howdy Doody. Even when opening for other rock acts, Waits wasnt comfortable. On a tour with Frank Zappa, Waits had what he described to Fricke as his first experience with rodeos and hockey arenas.It was like Frankenstein, with the torches, the whole thing.

While the life of a rock and roll star didnt appeal to Waits, his music appealed to many of the stars themselves. Artists such as the Eagles, Bette Midler, and Bruce Springsteen all recorded their own versions of Waitss songs from the 1970s. Waits was prolific throughout the decade, releasing a total of eight albums on Asylum from 1973 through 1981, including The Heart of Saturday Nightin 1974, Small Changem 1977, and Heart Attack and Vine in 1980. Steve Huey of allmusic.com summarized Waitss music during this period as a mix of Beat poetry recited over jazz-trio backing and blues, alcohol-soaked piano and/or orchestral balladry. The 1975 live album Nighthawks at the Diner captured the full Waits stage performance, laced with the storytelling and one-liners that he interspersed within the musical performances.

Waitss penchant for performing led him into acting. He made his film debut with a small part in the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Paradise Alley in 1978. Waits went on to appear in numerous films, working with such respected directors as Robert Altman (Short Cuts), Terry Gilliam (The Fisher King), Jim Jarmusch (several films, most notably Down by Law), and Francis Ford Coppola (several films, including Bram Stokers Dracula). Working with Jarmusch and Coppola also gave Waits the opportunity to write soundtracks. One collaboration with Coppola also led Waits to one of the most important events of his life and career. While writing the soundtrack for One From the Heart, he met script editor Kathleen Brennan. The two married in 1980, and while she changed his life in small ways, such as not allowing him to wear his suits to bed, she also influenced his song writing by encouraging him to open up musically.

Waitss first album after their marriage was 1983s Swordfishtrombones, which marked the beginning of a new sound for him, a sound that came out of collaborating with Brennan. Hedescribed how she liberated him to Gil Kaufman and Michael Goldberg of Addicted to Noise web magazine: You try to reconcile the fact that you like Collapsing New Buildings and Skip James and Elmer Bernstein and Nick Cave and Beefheart and Eric Satie and all this stuff that you dont know what to do with. I guess it was her that gave me the notion that you can find some reconciliation between these things that you like. That was the beginning, and weve been working together since then. Some of the new elements to appear in Waitss music at this time were the influence of German composer Kurt Weill and the willingness to use sounds made by everyday objects in his arrangements. Waits told Fricke, Im the kind of bandleader who when he says, Dont forget to bring the Fender, I mean the fender from the Dodge.

While Waitss music and instruments changed over time, the lyrics of his songs continued to explore the lives of the down-and-out and the dispossessed. Even though the situations may seem bizarre, Waits and Brennan write from everyday life, although they exaggerate a bit. He told Fricke, If I know three things about my neighbor, I take those, and thats enough for me to goon. Everybody mixes truth and fiction. If youre stuck for a place for a story to go, you make up the part you need. Waits also stressed the importance of making the setting for the song feel authentic in an interview with Jonathan Valania of Magnet magazine: Every song needs to be anatomically correct: You need weather, you need the name of the town, something to eatevery song needs certain ingredients to be balanced.

Still, Swordfishtrombones marked a change in the tone of Waitss songs. musicHound Rock described the songs from the 1970s as sentimental in the way people get after a few too many cocktails, but by the time Bone Machineras released in 1992, Waitss material was the most harrowing ever. Even this material, though, appealed to other artists. Rod Stewart scored a hit with his cover of Downtown Train from 1985s Raindogs. Bone Machine, though, brought Waits the most recognition for his workfrom the recording industry, winning a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance. Evidently Waits didnt think much of the award. Jim Jarmusch reported Waitss reaction to Valania: He flipped out when he got the Grammy. He hated that. Alternative to what?! What the hell does that mean?

Following Bone Machine, Waits turned his attention away from the studio and toward the stage. He had already collaborated with Brennan on the musical Franks Wild Years, the story of an accordion player recalling his life while freezing on a park bench, in 1987. In 1993, Waits teamed with legendary Beat author William Burroughs and composer Robert Wilson on a musical called The Black Rider, based on a 19th-century German folk opera about a man who makes a deal with the devil so that he can marry the woman he loves. Waits then worked with Wilson on an operatic adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. Waits also kept his hand in composing for movies, collaborating with Brennan on the music of an Oscar-winning animated short subject, Bunny, in 1998.

In 1999 Waits released Mule Variations, his first album of new material not related to stage or screen work in seven years. Commercially, it was immediately Waitss largest success. Only two of his previous albums had even cracked the Billboardtop 100, but Mule Variations debuted at number 30 on the chart. The album also achieved good critical notices, with many reviews pointing out that all the sounds and styles of Waitss earlier recordings appeared here in various songs. Valania wrote, Mule Variations, his first album in seven years, and possibly his best, finds him moving full circle. As usual, Brennan collaborated with Waits on this album, receiving co-writing credits on two-thirds of the songs. The couple composed on a rented piano in a hotel room, a process that Waits described to Fricke as a sack race. You learn to move forward together. Reviewing the album in the Village Voice, Robert Christgau wrote, Together they humanize the percussion-battered Bone Machine sound, reconstituting his 80s alienation effects into a Delta harshness with more give to itenough to accommodate a tenderness thats never soft.

Ironically, after all his years of recording for major labels, this most commercially successful of Waitss albums appeared on Epitaph records, an independent company known for its punk rockemphasis. Bradley Bambarger of Billboard reported that Waits wanted to avoid what he calls the plantation system of the music business. For Waits, remaining independent of the business dealings of major record labels broughtthef reedomto make the kind of music that he wanted and to take seven years between album releases if he so chose. Addressing the issue of his fans frustration at having to wait so long to hear a new Tom Waits album, he told Fricke, Its like looking for your waitress. People get like that with artists. We are a product-oriented society. Waits has defied that kind of expectation throughout his career, never performing the popular sound of the moment. He even defied his fans expectations when he changed from the derelict lounge singer of the 1970s to the sound experimentalist of the 1980s. And, comparing song writing to fishing, he told Fricke that it didnt matter how frequently he produced new work: So you dont want to fish for a couple of weeks, a couple of years? The fish will get along fine without you.

Selected discography

with Elektra/Asylum

Closing Time, 1973.

The Heart of Saturday Night, 1974.

Nighthawks at the Diner, 1975.

Small Change, 1976.

Foreign Affairs, 1977.

Blue Valentine, 1978.

Heart Attack and Vine, 1980.

Bounced Checks, 1981.

Asylum Years, 1985.

Anthology, 1985.

The Asylum Years, 1985.

with Columbia

One From the Heart, 1982.

with Island

Swordfishtrombones, 1983.

Rain Dogs, 1985.

Franks Wild Years, 1987.

Big Time, 1988.

Bone Machine, 1992.

Night on Earth, 1992.

The Black Rider, 1993.

Beautiful Maladies: The Island Years, 1998.

with Epitaph

Mule Variations, 1999.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, volume 12, Gale Research, Inc., 1994.

musicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1999.

Periodicals

Billboard, March 20, 1999, p. 11.

Magnet, June/July, 1999, p. 51.

Rolling Stone, June 24, 1999, p. 37.

Village Voice, June 1, 1999, p. 76.

Online

Tom Waits, All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com(November 26, 1999).

Tom Waits 99: The ATN Interview, Addicted to Noise, http://www.addict.com(November 26, 1999).

Lloyd Hemingway

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"Waits, Tom." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 27 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Waits, Tom." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/waits-tom

"Waits, Tom." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved April 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/waits-tom