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Tom Waits

 B i o g r a p h y

Thomas Alan Waits(born 7 December 1949) is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and actor. Waits has a distinctive voice, described by one critic 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 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 as a supporting actor in films, including The Fisher King, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Short Cuts. He has been nominated for an Academy Award for his soundtrack work on One from the Heart. Lyrically, Waits' songs are known for atmospheric portrayals of bizarre, 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 to the general public in the form of cover versions by more visible artists—for example, "Jersey Girl," performed by Bruce Springsteen; "Downtown Train," performed by Rod Stewart; and "Ol' '55," performed by the Eagles. 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.Waits currently lives in Sonoma County, California with his wife and their three children.

Tom Waits was born (7 lbs., 10 oz.) on December 7, 1949 at Park Avenue hospital in Pomona, California to Jesse Frank Waits and Alma Johnson McMurray, both schoolteachers. His father was of Scots-Irish descent and his mother from Norwegian stock. Waits' parents divorced in 1960, when he was ten years old and attending Jordan Elementary school in Whittier, California, where the young Waits continued to live before moving with his mother to National City, near the Mexican border, in 1960. Waits, who taught himself how to play the piano on a neighbor's instrument, would later claim that it was during trips to Mexico with his father, who taught Spanish, that he would first find his love of music through a Mexican ballad that was "probably a Ranchera, you know, on the car radio with my dad." By 1965, while attending the Hilltop High School within the Sweetwater Union High School District, Chula Vista, Waits was playing in an R&B soul band called The System and had begun his first job at Napoleone Pizza House (still at 619 National City Blvd., National City, CA) in San Diego (about which he would later sing on "I Can't Wait to Get Off Work" from Small Change and "The Ghosts of Saturday Night (After Hours at Napoleone's Pizza House)" on The Heart of Saturday Night). He later admitted that he was not a fan of the 1960s music scene, stating, "I wasn't thrilled by Blue Cheer, so I found an alternative, even if it was Bing Crosby." Five years later, he was working as a doorman at the Heritage nightclub (now the Liars Club in Pacific Beach at 3844 Mission Blvd.) in San Diego—where artists of every genre performed—when he did his first paid gig for $25. A fan of Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Lord Buckley, Hoagy Carmichael, Marty Robbins, Raymond Chandler, and Stephen Foster, Waits began developing his own idiosyncratic musical style, combining song and monologue. After working for the U.S. Coast Guard, he took his newly formed act to Monday nights at The Troubadour in Los Angeles, where musicians would line up all day for the opportunity to perform on stage that night. In 1971, Waits moved to the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles (at the time, also home to musicians Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther of the Eagles, Jackson Browne, and Frank Zappa) and signed with Herb Cohen at the age of 21. From August to December 1971, Waits made a series of demo recordings for Cohen's Bizarre/Straight label, including many songs for which he would later become known. These early tracks were eventually to be released twenty years later on The Early Years, Volume One and Volume Two.

Waits signed to Asylum Records in 1972, and after numerous abortive recording sessions, his first record—the jazzy, folk-tinged Closing Time—was released in 1973. The album, which was produced and arranged by former Lovin' Spoonful member Jerry Yester, received warm reviews, but Waits did not gain widespread attention until a number of the album's tracks were covered by more prominent artists. Later in 1973, Tim Buckley released the album Sefronia, which contained a cover of Waits' song "Martha" from Closing Time, the first-ever cover of a Tom Waits song by a known artist. The album's opening track, "Ol' 55," was recorded by his labelmates the Eagles in 1974 for their On the Border album. He began touring and opening for such artists as Charlie Rich, Martha and the Vandellas, and Frank Zappa. Waits gained increasing critical acclaim and a loyal cult audience with his subsequent albums. The Heart of Saturday Night (1974), featuring the song "Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night," revealed Waits' roots as a nightclub performer, with half-spoken and half-crooned ballads often accompanied by a jazz backup band. Waits described the album as:

...a comprehensive study of a number of aspects of this search for the center of Saturday night, which Jack Kerouac relentlessly chased from one end of this country to the other, and I've attempted to scoop up a few diamonds of this magic that I see.

In 1975, Waits moved to the Tropicana Motel on Santa Monica Boulevard and released the double album Nighthawks at the Diner, recorded in a studio with a small audience in order to capture the ambience of a live show. The record exemplifies this phase of his career, including the lengthy spoken interludes between songs that punctuated his live act and the introduction to fans of his newly discovered, exaggeratedly gruff vocal delivery that would dominate many albums to come. That year, he also contributed backing vocals to Bonnie Raitt's "Sweet and Shiny Eyes," from her album Home Plate. At this time, Waits was drinking more and more heavily, and life on the road was starting to take its toll. Waits, looking back at the period, has said,

    I was sick through that whole period [...] It was starting to wear on me, all the touring. I'd been traveling quite a bit, living in hotels, eating bad food, drinking a lot—too much. There's a lifestyle that's there before you arrive and you're introduced to it. It's unavoidable.

In reaction to these hardships, Waits recorded Small Change (1976), which finds Waits in a much more cynical and pessimistic mood, lyrically, with many songs such as "The Piano Has Been Drinking" and "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart" presenting a bare and honest portrayal of alcoholism while also cementing Waits' hard-living reputation in the eyes of many fans. With the album, Waits asserted that he "tried to resolve a few things as far as this cocktail lounge, maudlin, crying-in-your-beer image that I have. There ain't nothin' funny about a drunk[...] I was really starting to believe that there was something amusing and wonderfully American about being a drunk. I ended up telling myself to cut that shit out." The album, which also included long-time fan favorite "Tom Traubert's Blues," featured famed drummer Shelly Manne and was, like his previous albums, heavily jazz influenced, with a lyrical style that owes a debt to Raymond Chandler and Charles Bukowski as well as a vocal delivery influenced by Louis Armstrong. Small Change, which was accompanied by the double A-side single "Step Right Up"/"The Piano Has Been Drinking," was a critical and commercial success and far outsold any of Waits' previous albums, particularly Nighthawks at the Diner. With it, Waits broke onto Billboard's Top 100 Albums chart for the first time in his career (a feat Waits would not repeat until 1999 with the release of Mule Variations). This resulted in a much higher public profile for Waits, which brought with it interviews and articles in Time magazine, Newsweek, and Vogue. As a result of the commercial success of Small Change and the prestige it brought him, Waits was able to put together a regular touring band (he had previously toured solo, for the most part). He named his new backing band The Nocturnal Emissions, which featured Frank Vicari on tenor sax, Fitzgerald Jenkins on bass, and Chip White on percussion and vibes. Tom Waits and the Nocturnal Emissions toured the United States and Europe extensively from October 1976 until May 1977, including a performance of "The Piano Has Been Drinking" on cult BBC2 television music show The Old Grey Whistle Test in May 1976. Foreign Affairs (1977) was musically in a similar vein to Small Change, but showed further artistic refinement and exploration into jazz and blues styles. Particularly noteworthy is the long cinematic spoken-word piece, "Potter's Field," set to an orchestral score. The album also features Bette Midler singing a duet with Waits on "I Never Talk to Strangers." The album Blue Valentine (1978) displayed Waits' biggest musical departure to date, with much more focus on electric guitar and keyboards than on previous albums and nearly no strings (with the exception of album-opener "Somewhere"—a cover of Leonard Bernstein's song from West Side Story—and "Kentucky Avenue") for a darker, more blues-oriented and hard-edged sound. The song "Blue Valentines" was also unique for Waits in that it featured a desolate arrangement of solo electric guitar played by Ray Crawford, accompanied by Waits' vocal. It was around this time that Waits had a high profile romantic relationship with Rickie Lee Jones (who appears on the sleeve art of the Foreign Affairs and Blue Valentine albums). In 1978, Waits also appeared in his first movie role alongside Sylvester Stallone in Paradise Alley as Mumbles the pianist, and contributed the original compositions "(Meet Me in) Paradise Alley" and "Annie's Back in Town" to the film's soundtrack. Heartattack and Vine, Waits' last studio album for Asylum, was released in 1980, featuring a developing sound that included both balladeer tendencies (on "Jersey Girl," for example) as well as rougher-edged rhythm and blues. Though not entirely unprecedented, the album's grittier sound was different for Waits, and foreshadowed the major changes in his music that would take place in the following years. The same year, he began a long working relationship with Francis Ford Coppola, who asked Waits to provide music for his film One from the Heart. For Coppola's film, Waits originally wanted to work with Bette Midler, who previously sang a duet with him on the Billie Holiday-esque track, "I Never Talk to Strangers" from Foreign Affairs; but due to previous engagements, Midler was unavailable. Instead, Waits ended up working with singer/songwriter Crystal Gayle as his vocal foil for the album.

In August 1980, Waits married Kathleen Brennan, whom he had met on the set of One from the Heart. Brennan is regularly credited as coauthor of many songs in his later albums, and Waits often cites her as a major influence on his work. She introduced him to the music of Captain Beefheart; despite having shared a manager with Beefheart in the 1970s, Waits says, "I became more acquainted with him when I got married." Waits would later describe his relationship with Brennan as a paradigm shift in his musical development. After leaving Asylum, the label released the first Tom Waits "Best of" album in 1981, a collection called Bounced Checks, notable for including an alternate, stripped down version of "Jersey Girl" and the otherwise unreleased "Mr. Henry." In the few years before Waits would re-emerge with his new musical style, he appeared in a series of minor movie roles, including a small cameo in Wolfen (1981) as an inebriated piano player. One from the Heart received its official theatrical release in 1982, with Waits appearing in a cameo as a trumpet player as well as receiving an Oscar nomination for Original Song Score (eventually losing out to Victor/Victoria, by Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse). This marked the first in a series of collaborations between Waits and Francis Ford Coppola, with Waits appearing in cameos in Coppola's movies The Outsiders (1983), Rumble Fish (1983), and The Cotton Club (1984). After leaving Asylum Records for Island Records, Waits released Swordfishtrombones in 1983, a record that marked a sharp turn in Waits' output and which gave rise to his reputation as a musical maverick. The album advances all the musical experimentation of earlier recordings, including variations in instrumentation (e.g., the use of bagpipes in "Town with No Cheer" or the marimba on "Shore Leave") and vocalizing (e.g., the spoken word of "Frank's Wild Years" or the bark of "16 Shells from a Thirty Ought Six") and much less of the traditional piano-and-strings ballad sound with which Waits had always previously balanced his recordings. Apart from Captain Beefheart and some of Dr. John's early output, there was little precedent in popular music for Swordfishtrombones or Waits' equally idiosyncratic subsequent albums, Rain Dogs (1985) and Franks Wild Years (1987). Waits had earlier played either piano or guitar, but he began to tire of these instruments, saying, "Your hands are like dogs, going to the same places they've been. You have to be careful when playing is no longer in the mind but in the fingers, going to happy places. You have to break them of their habits or you don't explore; you only play what is confident and pleasing. I'm learning to break those habits by playing instruments I know absolutely nothing about, like a bassoon or a waterphone." The instrumentation and orchestration in these and later albums were often quite eclectic. Waits' self-described "Junkyard Orchestra" included wheezing pump organs, clattering percussion (sometimes reminiscent of the music of Harry Partch), bleary horn sections (often featuring Ralph Carney playing in the style of brass bands or soul music), nearly atonal guitar (perhaps best typified by Marc Ribot's contributions), and obsolete instruments (many of Waits' albums have featured a damaged, unpredictable Chamberlin, and more recent albums have included the little-used Stroh violin). Along with a new instrumental approach, Waits gradually altered his singing style to sound less like the late-night crooner of the 70s, instead adopting a number of techniques: a gravelly sound reminiscent of Howlin' Wolf; a booming, feral bark; or a strained, nearly shrieking falsetto that Waits jokingly describes as his Prince voice. Tom Moon describes Waits' voice as a "broad-spectrum assault weapon." His songwriting shifted as well, becoming somewhat more abstract and embracing a number of styles largely ignored in pop music, including primal blues, cabaret stylings, rumbas, theatrical approaches in the style of Kurt Weill, tango music, and early country music and European folk music as well as the Tin Pan Alley-era songs that influenced his early output. He also recorded a few spoken word pieces influenced by Ken Nordine's "word jazz" records of the 1950s. Waits' new emphasis on experimenting with various styles and instrumentation reached its pinnacle on 1985's Rain Dogs, a sprawling nineteen-song collection considered by many fans and critics to be among his finest works to date (the album was ranked #21 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s. In 2003, the album was ranked number 397 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.) Contributions from renowned guitarists Marc Ribot and Keith Richards contributed to Waits' ever-increasing move away from piano-based songs, in juxtaposition with an increased emphasis on instruments such as marimba, accordion, double bass, trombone, and banjo. The album also spawned the 12″ single "Downtown Train/Tango Till They're Sore/Jockey Full of Bourbon," with Jean Baptiste Mondino filming a promotional video for "Downtown Train" (which would later become a hit for Rod Stewart), featuring a cameo from boxing legend Jake La Motta. The album peaked at #188 on Billboard's Top 200 albums chart; however, its reputation has come to far outshine low initial sales. Franks Wild Years, a musical play by Waits and Brennan, was staged as an off-Broadway musical in 1986, directed by Gary Sinise, in a successful run at Chicago's famed Steppenwolf Theater. Waits himself played the lead role of Frank onstage. This continued Waits' involvement in other artistic forms as he developed his acting career with several supporting roles and a lead role in Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law in 1986, which also featured two of Waits' songs from Rain Dogs in the soundtrack. In the same year, Waits also contributed piano and vocals to the song "Sleep Tonight" on The Rolling Stones album Dirty Work. 1987 saw the release of the album Franks Wild Years (subtitled "Un Operachi Romantico in Two Acts"), which included studio versions from Waits' play of the same name. The album saw a heightened emphasis on brass instrumentation and a further broadening of Waits' musical palette.

Rolling Stone summed up the album's myriad styles this way: "Everything from sleazy strip-show blues to cheesy waltzes to supercilious lounge lizardry is given spare, jarring arrangements using various combinations of squawking horns, bashed drums, plucked banjo, snaky double bass, carnival organ and jaunty accordion." Waits also continued to further his acting career with a supporting role as Rudy the Kraut in Ironweed (an adaptation of William Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel) alongside Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep, as well as a part in Robert Frank's Candy Mountain, in which Waits also performed the songs "Big Rock Candy Mountain" and "Once More Before I Go." In 1988, Waits performed in Big Time, a surreal concert movie and soundtrack which he cowrote with his wife. In 1989, Waits appeared in his final theatrical stage role to date, appearing as Curly in Thomas Babe's "Demon Wine" alongside Bill Pullman, Philip Baker Hall, Carol Kane, and Bud Cort. The play opened at the Los Angeles Theater Center in February 1989 to mixed reviews, although Waits' performance was singled out by a number of reviewers, including John C. Mahoney, who described his performance as "mesmerizing." Waits also finished the decade with appearances in three movies: as the voice of a radio DJ in Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train; as Kenny the Hitman in Robert Dornheim's Cold Feet; and the lead role of Punch & Judy man Silva in Bearskin: An Urban Fairytale. His only musical output of the year consisted of contributing his cover of Phil Phillips' "Sea of Love" to the soundtrack of the Al Pacino movie of the same name and contributing vocals to The Replacements song "Date to Church," which appeared as a B-side to their single I'll Be You.

The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets—a theatrical collaboration of Waits, director Robert Wilson, and writer William S. Burroughs—premiered at Hamburg's Thalia Theatre on 31 March 1990. The project was based on a German folktale called Der Freischütz, with Wilson responsible for the design and direction, Burroughs for writing the book, and Waits for music and lyrics, which were heavily influenced by the works of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. In the same year, Waits contributed a cover of Cole Porter's "It's All Right with Me" to Red Hot + Blue, the first in the series of compilation albums from the Red Hot Organization—one of the first major AIDS benefits in the music business—which sold over a million copies worldwide. Jim Jarmusch directed a promotional video for the song. He also collaborated with photographer Sylvia Plachy in the same year; her book Sylvia Plachy's Unguided Tour includes a short Waits record to accompany the photographs and text. The following year, Waits—despite not releasing a studio album proper—was extremely busy working on movie soundtracks, acting, and contributing to a number of music projects by other artists. First, Waits appeared on the Primus album Sailing the Seas of Cheese as the voice of "Tommy the Cat," which exposed him to a new audience in alternative rock. 

This was the first of several collaborations between Waits and the group; Les Claypool (Primus' singer and bassist) would appear on several subsequent Waits releases. The same year saw Waits provide spoken word contributions to Devout Catalyst, an album by one of Waits' greatest influences, Ken Nordine, on the songs "A Thousand Bing Bangs" and "The Movie." He also contributed vocals to two songs ("Little Man" and "I'm Not Your Fool Anymore") on jazz tenor saxophonist Teddy Edwards' album Mississippi Lad. Edwards was extremely complimentary of Waits' contributions, saying:

Tom Waits is the one who got me my conract[sic] with PolyGram. He's wonderful, he's America's best lyricist since Johnny Mercer. He came down to the studio on the Mississippi Lad album, that's the first one I did for PolyGram, and he sang two of my songs, wouldn't accept any money, just trying to give me the best boost that he could.

The only collection of exclusively Waits-performed material of 1991 appeared when Waits composed and conducted the almost exclusively instrumental music for Jim Jarmusch's 1991 film Night on Earth, which was released as an album the following year. In July 1991, Screamin' Jay Hawkins released the album Black Music for White People, which features covers of two Tom Waits compositions: "Heart Attack and Vine" (which later that year was used in a European Levi's advertisement without Waits' permission, resulting in a lawsuit) and "Ice Cream Man." Waits continued to appear in movie acting roles, the most significant of which was his uncredited cameo as a disabled veteran in Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King. He also appeared alongside Kevin Bacon, John Malkovich, and Jamie Lee Curtis in Steve Rash's Queens Logic, and opposite Tom Berenger and Kathy Bates in Hector Babenco's film At Play in the Fields of the Lord, adapted from Peter Matthiessen's 1965 novel. Bone Machine, Waits' first studio album in five years, was released in 1992. The stark record featured a great deal of percussion and guitar (with little piano or sax), marking another change in Waits' sound. Critic Steve Huey calls it "perhaps Tom Waits' most cohesive album... a morbid, sinister nightmare, one that applied the quirks of his experimental '80s classics to stunningly evocative—and often harrowing—effect... Waits' most affecting and powerful recording, even if it isn't his most accessible." Bone Machine was awarded a Grammy in the Best Alternative Album category. 19 December 1992 saw the premiere of Alice, Waits' second theatrical project with Robert Wilson, at the Thalia Theatre, Hamburg. Paul Schmidt adapted the text from the works of Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, in particular), with songs by Waits and Kathleen Brennan presented as intersections with the text rather than as expansions of the story, as would be the case in conventional musical theater. These songs would be recorded by Waits as a studio album ten years later on Alice. 1993's The Black Rider contained studio versions of the songs that Waits had written for the musical of the same name three years previously, with the exceptions of "Chase the Clouds Away" and "In the Morning," which appeared in the theatrical production but not on the studio album. William S. Burroughs also guests on vocals on "'TAin't No Sin." In the same year, Waits lent his vocals to Gavin Bryars' 75-minute reworking of his 1971 classical music piece Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet; appeared in Robert Altman's film version of Raymond Carver's stories Short Cuts and Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes: Somewhere in California, a short black and white movie with Iggy Pop; and his third child, son Sullivan, was born. In 1998, after Island Records released the compilation Beautiful Maladies: The Island Years, Waits left the label for Epitaph. Epitaph's president, Andy Kaulkin, said that the label was "...blown away that Tom would even consider us. We are huge fans." Waits himself was full of praise for the label, saying "Epitaph is rare for being owned and operated by musicians. They have good taste and a load of enthusiasm, plus they're nice people. And they gave me a brand-new Cadillac, of course." Waits' first album on his new label, Mule Variations, was issued in 1999. Billboard described the album as musically melding "backwoods blues, skewed gospel, and unruly art stomp into a sublime piece of junkyard sound sculpture." The album was Waits' first release to feature a turntablist. The album won a Grammy in 2000; though as an indicator of how difficult it is to classify Waits' music, he was nominated simultaneously for Best Contemporary Folk Album (which he won) and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance (for the song "Hold On")—both different from the genre for which he won his previous Grammy. The album was also his highest-charting album in the U.S. to date, reaching #30. The same year, Waits made the foray into producing music for other artists, teaming up with his old friend Chuck E. Weiss to coproduce (with his wife, Kathleen Brennan) Extremely Cool as well as appearing on the record as a guest vocalist and guitarist. 1999 also saw Waits contribute a cover of Alexander Skip Spence's "Books of Moses" to More Oar (A Tribute to Alexander "Skip" Spence), a collection of covers of the singer's songs on Birdman records.  On the acting front, Waits appeared in the comedy Mystery Men as eccentric scientist "Dr. Heller," who invents eccentric nonlethal weaponry such as the Blamethrower, Clothes Shrinker, and the Tornado-in-a-Can.

Wicked Grin, a collection of Waits cover songs, was released in 2001. Waits appears on most songs, playing guitar, piano, and/or offering backing vocals. The album also includes the traditional hymn "I Know I've Been Changed," performed as a duet by Hammond and Waits. In 2002, Waits simultaneously released two albums, Alice and Blood Money. Both collections had been written almost ten years previously and were based on theatrical collaborations with Robert Wilson; the former a musical play about Lewis Carroll, and the latter an interpretation of Georg Büchner's play fragment Woyzeck. Both albums revisit the tango Tin Pan Alley and spoken-word influences of Swordfishtrombones, while the lyrics are both profoundly cynical and melancholic, exemplified by the misanthropically titled "Misery is the River of the World" and "Everything Goes to Hell." "Always Keep a Diamond in Your Mind," which Waits wrote for Wilson's Woyzeck, did not appear on Blood Money; however, it did emerge on Solomon Burke's album Don't Give Up on Me of the same year. While Waits has played the song live a number of times, no official version has ever been released. The same year, Waits contributed a version of "The Return of Jackie and Judy" by The Ramones to the compilation album We're a Happy Family—A Tribute to Ramones, which was released in 2003 on Columbia. Real Gone, Waits' first nontheatrical studio album since Mule Variations five years previous, was released in 2004. It is Waits' only album to date to feature absolutely no piano on any of its tracks. Waits beatboxes on the opening track, "Top of the Hill," and most of the album's songs begin with Waits' "vocal percussion" improvisations. It is also more rock-oriented, with less blues influence than he has previously demonstrated, and it contains an explicitly political song—a first for Waits. In the album-closing "The Day After Tomorrow," he adopts the persona of a soldier's writing home that he is disillusioned with war and is thankful to be leaving. The song does not mention the Iraq war specifically, and, as Tom Moon writes, "It could be the voice of a Civil War soldier singing a lonesome late-night dirge." Waits himself does describe the song as something of an "elliptical" protest song about the Iraqi invasion, however. Thom Jurek describes "The Day After Tomorrow" as "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." The same year, Waits contributed backing vocals to the track "Go Tell It on the Mountain" on the Grammy Award (Best Traditional Gospel Album)-winning album of the same name by The Blind Boys of Alabama. He also contributed a version of Daniel Johnston's "King Kong" to the tribute album The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered, released on Gammon Records. At this time, Waits made a return to acting after a five-year break, marked at first by the re-release of his 1993 Jim Jarmusch-directed short Coffee and Cigarettes: Somewhere in California, costarring Iggy Pop, compiled in Coffee and Cigarettes. In 2005, Waits appeared in the Tony Scott film Domino as the character of "The Wanderer," a religious soothsayer. In the same year, Waits appeared as himself in Roberto Benigni's romantic comedy La Tigre e la Neve, set in occupied Baghdad during the Iraq War. In the movie, Waits appears in a dream scene as himself, singing the ballad You Can Never Hold Back Spring  and accompanying himself at the piano. A 54-song three-disc box set of rarities, unreleased tracks, and brand-new compositions called Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards was released in November 2006. The three discs are subdivided relating to their content: "Brawlers" features Waits' more upbeat rock and blues songs; "Bawlers," his ballads and love songs; and "Bastards," songs that fit in neither category, including a number of spoken-word tracks. A video for the song "Lie to Me" was produced as a promotion for the collection. Orphans also continues Waits' newfound interest in politics, with a song about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "Road To Peace." The album is also notable for containing a number of covers of songs by other artists, including The Ramones ("The Return of Jackie and Judy" and "Danny Says"), Daniel Johnston ("King Kong"), Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht ("What Keeps Mankind Alive"), and Leadbelly ("Goodnight Irene"), as well as renditions of works by poets and authors admired by Waits, such as Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac. Waits' albums Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards and Alice are both included in metacritic.com's list of the "Top 200: Best-Reviewed Albums" since 2000 at #9 and #19, respectively (as of November 2007). 2006 also saw Waits' guest appearance on Sparklehorse's album Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of a Mountain, playing piano on the track "Morning Hollow." Recently, Waits has made a number of high-profile television and concert appearances. In November 2006, Waits appeared on The Daily Show and performed "The Day After Tomorrow." This was significant for his having been only the third performing guest on the show—the first being Tenacious D, and the second, The White Stripes. On 4 May 2007, Waits performed "Lucinda" and "Ain't Goin' Down to the Well" from Orphans on the last show of a week Late Night with Conan O'Brien spent in San Francisco. There was a short interview after the last performance. Waits also played in the Bridge School Benefit on 27 and 28 October 2007 with the Kronos Quartet. On 10 July 2007, Waits released the download-only digital single "Diamond In Your Mind." The version of the song was recorded with the Kronos Quartet, with Greg Cohen, Philip Glass, and The Dalai Lama at the benefit concert "Healing The Divide: A Concert for Peace and Reconciliation" at Avery Fisher Hall, recorded on 21 September 2003. Most recently, Waits' song "Trampled Rose" appeared on the critically acclaimed album Raising Sand, a collaboration between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Waits also provided guest vocals on the song "Pray" by fellow ANTI- artists Traineater on their album The Book of Knots. On 22 January 2008, Waits made a rare live appearance in Los Angeles, performing at a benefit for Bet Tzedek Legal Services—The House of Justice, a nonprofit poverty law center. On 3 October 2007, the Terry Gilliam fan site, "Dreams," confirmed that the director's next project is The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, starring Heath Ledger, with Waits attached to play the role of Mr. Nick and an expected release in 2009. Production began in December 2007 in London. Heath Ledger's death in January 2008 cast doubt on the film's future, but the production has been salvaged with the addition of new actors.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Official Homepage: www.tomwaits.com

 A l b u m s

Closing Time (Elektra Entertainment, 1973)
The Heart of Saturday Night (Elektra Entertainment, 1974)
Nighthawks at the Diner (Elektra Entertainment, 1975)
Small Change (Elektra Entertainment, 1976)
Blue Valentines (Elektra Entertainment, 1978)
Austin City Limits (Eagle Records, 1978)
Heartattack and Vine (Elektra Entertainment, 1980)
Swordfishtrombones (Island Records, 1983)
Rain Dogs (Island Records, 1985)
Asylum Years (Island Records, 1986)
Frank's Wild Years (Island Records, 1987)
Big Time (Island Records, 1988)
Bone Machine (Island Records, 1992)
Black Rider (Island Records, 1993)
Used Songs (1973-1980) (Elektra Entertainment, 2001)
Alice (Anti Inc., 2002)
Blood Money (Anti Inc., 2002)
Real Gone (Anti Inc., 2004)
Orphans (Anti Inc., 2006)
Bad as Me (ANTI Records, 2011)