Tom Waits

Tom Waits constantly challenged popular musical perception, eschewing conventional commercial values with his idiosyncratic ideas and odd vocal style. He taught himself piano as a child and attributes his love of music to trips through Mexico with his father. Working in a pizza bar, Waits initially joined R&B band The System, then played solo shows at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. He released his debut album, Closing Time, in 1973, establishing his signature growly vocals, literate lyrics, and romantic downtrodden persona on tracks like “Ol’ 55". 1976’s Small Change included two of his most popular songs, “Tom Traubert's Blues” and “The Piano Has Been Drinking”, while 1978’s Blue Valentine demonstrated his appetite for change; including an imaginative cover of “Somewhere” from West Side Story. In 1983 he released one of his most celebrated albums, Swordfishtrombones. Waits then moved into musical theatre with Frank's Wild Years (1986), Big Time (1988) and The Black Rider (1990). He maintained an acting career during this time, becoming a cult character actor in movies such as Paradise Alley, Ironweed, and numerous projects with indie director Jim Jarmusch. Highlights of his ‘90s output include 1992’s Bone Machine and 1999’s Mule Variations. He continued his unique musical journey into the next century with 2002’s Alice and Blood Money, as well as 2011’s Bad As Me and maintained his presence in films with projects as diverse as The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Short Cuts, and Seven Psychopaths. All of this helped him maintain the cool, outsider, arty persona he had cultivated since the beginning of his career.

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