Known for his growling vocals, fusion music, and lyrics that border on poetry, Tom Waits is one of the most influential artists of the past forty years. His sound has been often imitated, and his shows have challenged traditional live performances. Even with a handful of awards -- including two Grammys -- Waits is more of an icon than a musician, as many of his albums have straddled the line between underground and mainstream. As a result, Waits has preferred and even struggled to lead the life of an obscure musician, switching to smaller record labels when the one he has gets too big. As a fan, you’re in for a treat: Waits has announced a rare US tour covering most of the East Coast.
Thomas Alan Waits was born in Pomona, California, on December 7, 1949. As a child, Waits taught himself to play on a neighbor's piano and, by 1965, he had joined his first R&B band. He moved to Los Angeles in 1970, where he began playing open mic night at The Troubadour. After playing local tour dates and releasing several demos, Waits was signed to Asylum Records in 1972. Closing Time was released in 1973 and received favorable reviews; the album didn't experience widespread success until later that year songs were covered by Tim Buckley, and by the Eagles in 1974. The eventual success of the album and concert dates built Waits a sizable following that grew even more after the release of Nighthawks at the Diner in 1975.
Tour dates and drinking took a toll that was chronicled in Small Change in 1976, which featured a darker sound and pessimistic verse concerning alcohol. Foreign Affairs (1977), Blue Valentine (1978), and Heartattack and Vine (1980) saw the artist exploring uncharted realms of jazz and blues. While the sound culminated in Heartattack and Vine, it gave way to even more diverse and unique sound after Waits married Kathleen Brennan in 1980. A richer, more varied style appeared on the classic Rain Dogs album in 1985, which featured instruments like the marimba and accordion, and combined elements of blues, cabaret, and European folk music that took Waits' tour dates to another level.
Waits spent the first two years of the 90s contributing to films and other artists' albums between tour dates, until the release of Bone Machine in 1992. The album featured an even more stripped down sound that was accentuated by the cement cellar that it was recorded in. Waits' next studio album, Mule Variations, was released in 1999 to critical acclaim. The album became the culmination of Tom's signature sound and won him a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Waits began the new millennium with the release of albums in 2002 written for plays: Blood Money, written for the play, Woyzeck; and Alice, written for a play of the same name. For the coveted Lost in the Trees tour, make sure to get your tickets while they last and use Eventful to stay updated on what Mr. Waits is up to next.
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