Artist of The Day: Tom Waits

posted by Shane German on 12/07/2018

Friday, December 7th: TOM WAITS


Thomas Alan Waits (born December 7, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter and actor. Known for his distinctive deep gravelly singing voice, his lyrics are characterized by their focus on characters living on the underside of U.S. society. His early music during the 1970s was primarily in the jazz genre, but later work moved towards blues, vaudeville, and experimental music.


Raised in California, Waits became inspired by Bob Dylan and the Beat Generation as a teenager, and began singing on the San Diego folk music scene. Relocating to Los Angeles, he worked as a songwriter before signing a recording contract with Asylum Records. His first albums, 1973’s jazz-oriented Closing Time and 1974’s The Heart of Saturday Night, reflected his lyrical interest in nightlife, poverty, and criminality. Repeatedly touring the U.S., Europe, and Japan, he attracted greater critical recognition and commercial success with 3 subsequent albums from 1976 to 1980. He produced the soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola's 1982 film One from the Heart and made cameo appearances in several Coppola films.


In the early 1980s, Waits married Kathleen Brennan, broke from his manager and record label, and moved to New York City. Under his wife’s influence, he pursued a new musical aesthetic, reflected in a series of albums released by Island Records. In the 1990s, his albums—Bone Machine (1992), The Black Rider (1993), and Mule Variations (1999)—earned him increasing critical acclaim and various Grammy Awards. In the late 1990s he switched to the record label Anti-, with whom he released 4 more albums, including his most recent album, 2011’s Bad as Me.


Waits' albums have met with mixed commercial success in the U.S., although have occasionally achieved gold album sales status in other countries. He has a cult following and has influenced subsequent singer-songwriters, despite having little radio or music video support. In 2011, Waits was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was included among the 2010 list of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Singers, as well as the 2015 list of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.



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