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#BornThisDay: Musician, Tom Waits

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December 7, 1949– Tom Waits:

“I’ve always been afraid I was going to tap the world on the shoulder for 30 years and when it finally turned around, I was going to forget what I had to say.”

He is decidedly not gay and most assuredly not everyone’s cup of tea, but not only is he a favorite at my house, taking up a large section of the “W”s in my CD collection, Thomas Alan Waits is the songwriter of a certain ditty that I wish to have played at my memorial service. Readers and husband, take note.

Academy Award nominated and Grammy Award winner, Waits has been one of my most influential musical artists because he has continuously created music outside of fad or fashion. His tunes are off-road adventures taken into the further beyond… way, way gone. Mixing and mashing, songs both sonic and sensual, musical traditions both new and old,  rhythms both mouth-made and sampled from his own instruments. He is equal parts Stephen FosterCole Porter  and Bob Dylan.

Waits’ songs are musical portraits of egregious, nefarious, seedy people and locations. They are musically complex and lyrically sophisticated considering the territory that he covers. Among the many versions of his songs done by other artists, some of my favorites are Jersey Girl as performed by Bruce Springsteen, and Downtown Train as sung by Rod Stewart. One of my favorite Jazz artists, the great Canadian songbird, Holly Cole, released an entire album of Waits cover versions, Temptation (1995), which is simply terrific. Actor Scarlett Johansson’s musical debut album, Anywhere I Lay My Head (2008) features covers of 10 Waits songs and it is shockingly fine. Who knew?

In 2011, Waits was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. He is also included among the 2010 list of Rolling Stone‍Magazine’s 100 Greatest Singers, and he is included on the new 2017 list of the magazines ’s 100 Greatest Songwriters Of All Time.

Waits has never had a commercial hit. Most of his songs are best known in recordings made by other people. He has a huge fan base, but rarely tours. His razor-sharp wit and lyrical prowess have put him in a category by himself. Just what that category is remains unclear. Waits has a voice that sounds as if it was soaked in whiskey, aged in the smokehouse and then run over by a 1954 Chevy pickup truck.

He has worked as a composer for movie and musicals and acted in films, including Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (1993) and Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). He also starred in Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law (1986) and Coffee And Cigarettes (1997). He was nominated for an Academy Award for his soundtrack for the underrated One From The Heart (1981). Waits wrote and performed the music for Bunny (1998), which won an Oscar Best Animated Short Film.

Waits has been a supporter of LGBTQ Rights for decades. I remember one of the first big benefits ever held in support of gay people, A Star Spangled Night For Rights at the Hollywood Bowl in 1977, had a bill that included Lily TomlinRichard PryorBette Midler and Waits. This was so long ago, LGBTQ wasn’t even an acronym, and many of you probably had not been born.

I have been listening to Waits for 45 years. I have many favorite Waits songs, but this one means so much to me that I want to leave this world with it as my soundtrack. If you’ve only been a passing listener to Waits, I highly recommend spending an evening with your favorite drink of choice (the harder the alcohol the better) and his The Heart Of Saturday Night album  from 1974 for a start.

Waits lives with his wife and collaborator, Kathleen Brennan in Sonoma.

So, here’s the song to play when I have kicked the bucket. Don’t forget. I am going to hold you to it.

I’m leaving my family
And leaving my friends
My body’s at home
But my heart’s in the wind
Where the clouds are like headlines
On a new front page sky
My tears are salt water
And the moon’s full and high
And I know Martin Eden’s
Gonna be proud of me
And many before me
Who’ve been called by the sea
To be up in the crow’s nest
And singin’ my say
Shiver me Timbers
I’m sailing away
The fog’s lifting
And the sand’s shifting
And I’m drifting on out
And Ol’ Captain Ahab
Ain’t got nothin’ on me
So come on and swallow me
Don’t me follow me
I travel alone
Blue water’s my daughter
And I’m gonna skip like a stone
And please call my missus
Tell her not to cry
My goodbye is written
By the moon in the sky
And nobody knows me
I can’t fathom my stayin’
And shiver me timbers
I’m sailing away
And I’m leaving my family
And I’m leaving my friends
My body’s at home
But my heart’s in the wind
Where the clouds are like headlines
On a new front page sky
And shiver me timbers
I’m sailing away
Tom Waits, 1974

 

The post #BornThisDay: Musician, Tom Waits appeared first on The WOW Report.


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