Tom Waits

Born 7 December 1949.
Tom Waits


Thomas Alan "Tom" Waits (born December 7, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and actor. Waits has a distinctive voice, described by critic Daniel Durchholz as sounding "like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car." With this trademark growl, his incorporation of pre-rock music styles such as blues, jazz, and vaudeville, and experimental tendencies verging on industrial music, Waits has built up a distinctive musical persona. He has worked as a composer for movies and musical plays and has acted in supporting roles in films, including Paradise Alley and Bram Stoker's Dracula; he also starred in Jim Jarmusch's 1986 film Down by Law. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his soundtrack work on One from the Heart.

Waits' lyrics frequently present atmospheric portraits of grotesque, often seedy characters and places—although he has also shown a penchant for more conventional ballads. He has a cult following and has influenced subsequent songwriters despite having little radio or music video support. His songs are best-known through cover versions by more commercial artists: "Jersey Girl", performed by Bruce Springsteen, "Ol' '55", performed by the Eagles, and "Downtown Train", performed by Rod Stewart. Although Waits' albums have met with mixed commercial success in his native United States, they have occasionally achieved gold album sales status in other countries. He has been nominated for a number of major music awards and has won Grammy Awards for two albums, Bone Machine and Mule Variations. In 2011, Waits was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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BBC Reviews

  1. Review of Bad as Me

    Bad as Me 2011

    Reviewed by Chris Power
    Waits is roaming his property, repainting the fence instead of jumping over it.
  2. Review of Glitter & Doom Live

    Glitter & Doom Live 2009

    Reviewed by John Doran
    That he is a copper-bottomed, titanium-plated genius is undeniable.
  3. Review of Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards

    Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards 2006

    Reviewed by Chris Jones
    These aren’t offcuts, but prime Tom.
  4. Review of Real Gone

    Real Gone 2004

    Reviewed by Chris Jones
    It's incredible that someone who, these days, is undoubtedly more superannuated than...
  5. Review of Dime Store Novels Vol 1

    Dime Store Novels Vol 1

    Reviewed by Nigel Smith
    This is an Edward Hopper painting set to music: drunks, waitresses, sailors and truck...
  6. Review of Alice


    Reviewed by Dan Hill
    It always feels genuine, or rather, his delicate balancing-act means you let him get...
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