Artist picture of Tom Waits

Tom Waits

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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
, in 1973, establishing his signature growly vocals, literate lyrics,
and romantic downtrodden persona on tracks like “Ol’ 55". 1976’s Small
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.