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Wikipedia Summary for Tom Waits

Thomas Alan Waits (born December 7, 1949) is an American singer, songwriter, musician, composer, and actor. His lyrics often focus on the underbelly of society and are delivered in his trademark deep, gravelly voice. He worked primarily in jazz during the 1970s, but his music since the 1980s has reflected greater influence from blues, rock, vaudeville, and experimental genres.

Waits was born and raised in a middle-class family in Pomona, California. Inspired by the work of Bob Dylan and the Beat Generation, he began singing on the San Diego folk music circuit as a teenager. He relocated to Los Angeles in 1972, where he worked as a songwriter before signing a recording contract with Asylum Records. His first albums were the jazz-oriented Closing Time (1973) and The Heart of Saturday Night (1974), which reflected his lyrical interest in nightlife, poverty, and criminality. He repeatedly toured the United States, Europe, and Japan, and attracted greater critical recognition and commercial success with Small Change (1976), Blue Valentine (1978), and Heartattack and Vine (1980). He produced the soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola's film One from the Heart (1981), and subsequently made cameo appearances in several Coppola films.

In 1980, Waits married Kathleen Brennan, split from his manager and record label, and moved to New York City. With Brennan's encouragement and frequent collaboration, he pursued a more experimental and eclectic musical aesthetic influenced by the work of Harry Partch and Captain Beefheart. This was reflected in a series of albums released by Island Records, including Swordfishtrombones (1983), Rain Dogs (1985), and Franks Wild Years (1987). He continued appearing in films, notably starring in Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law (1986), and also made theatrical appearances. With theatre director Robert Wilson, he produced the musicals The Black Rider and Alice, first performed in Hamburg. Having returned to California in the 1990s, his albums Bone Machine (1992), The Black Rider (1993), and Mule Variations (1999) earned him increasing critical acclaim and multiple Grammy Awards. In the late 1990s, he switched to the record label ANTI-, which released Blood Money (2002), Alice (2002), Real Gone (2004), and Bad as Me (2011).

Despite a lack of mainstream commercial success, Waits has influenced many musicians and gained an international cult following, and several biographies have been written about him. In 2015, he was ranked at No. 55 on Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time". He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

--Tom Waits

Longer Version:

We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. We are monkeys with money and guns.


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Most people don't care if you're telling them the truth or if you're telling them a lie, as long as they're entertained by it. You find that out really fast.


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I guess I've always lived upside down when I want things I can't have. My wife actually thinks I have a syndrome called Reality Distortion Field. It's kind of like drugs, only you can't come back from it. Reality Distortion is almost a permanent condition. Things come in and they go out: Presto, chango! To a certain extent, I did that with myself. As a kid, I did want to be an old-timer, since they were the ones with the big stories and the cool clothes. I wanted to go there. Now, I guess I want to bring that with me and go back in time.


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The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering. It cheapens and degrades the human experience, when it should inspire and elevate.


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If you are recording, you are recording. I don't believe there is such a thing as a demo or a temporary vocal. The drama around even sitting in the car and singing into a tape recorder that's as big as your hand -- waiting until it's very quiet, doing your thing, and then playing it back and hoping you like it -- is the same basic anatomy as when you're in the recording studio, really. Sometimes it's better that way because some of the pressure is off and you can pretend it's throwaway.


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It's a battered old suitcase to a hotel someplace, and a wound that will never heal. No prima donna, the perfume is on an old shirt that is stained with blood and whiskey. Goodnight to the street sweepers, the night watchmen flame keepers and goodnight, Matilda, too.


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Longer Version:

For a songwriter, you don't really go to songwriting school; you learn by listening to tunes. And you try to understand them and take them apart and see what they're made of, and wonder if you can make one, too.


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