Tom Waits Elected to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The gravel voiced, neo-Beat, saintly gutter rat, utterly inimitable, Tom Waits, will be joining the likes of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Chuck Berry and other music lifers in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Waits' response to the news, according to Rolling Stone magazine, "I am still recovering...I never really cared about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...but now I am surprised to discover how much I DO care. I'm wondering if I did something wrong?" is prototypical Waitsian rhetoric. His acceptance speech should be nothing short of fine satirical comedy.

Beginning his career in the early 1970s as a piano playing, blues singer/songwriter, Waits long celebrated the social ladder's lowest rungs in his songs, and he lived a life not far from his muse. For the first decade of his career, Waits added increasingly idiosyncratic characters to his stories, in songs like "Frank's Wild Years", "The Ghosts of Saturday Night", and "Small Change", though his biggest successes came as more famous artists covered his songs, with Springsteen doing "Jersey Girl" and Rod Stewart doing "Downtown Train".

In the mid-1980s, Waits met his wife, Kathleen Brennan, who inspired a new approach to songwriting, with the inclusion of non-traditional instrumentation including trombone, kettle drum, and other percussive instruments that often sound like they might well have been his own creation. The result was his most creative period, producing the landmark Rain Dogs and Swordfishtrombones and continuing through his more recent work in the Grammy Award winning Bone Machine and my personal favorite, Mule Variations. Also check out the sprawling three disc set of absurdly good b-sides from this period, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, & Bastards, released in 2006.


One of the best expereinces of my life was seeing Waits perform live. Congratulations Tom Waits (no doubt he regularly reads the AADL website) Great post Macallan!

Which reminds me of one of my all-time favorite Xmas songs, his "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis." Brings tears to my eyes every time.

@ringenka, I'm incredibly jealous that you had the chance to see him live. He so rarely tours, and even when he does they are limited dates, but from everything I've seen and heard of his live performance, it is part vaudeville, part tin pan alley, part burlesque and 100% Tom Waits.

@amy, that's a great tune. I love the line, "and hey Charley I think about you / every time I pass a fillin' station / on account of all the grease / you used to wear in your hair." But the one that chokes me up every time is "Broken Bicycles" from One from the Heart.

oh i know, it's priceless. ringenka says neko case's cover is even better. you heard it? i don't remember "broken bicycles" so thanks for the recommendation.

I'm a fan of all things Neko Case and her stunningly powerful voice, though I haven't heard this particular cover...yet. Thanks for the recommendation!