Thomas Alan "Tom" Waits, born December 7, 1949, is one of America's most distinctive and eclectic raconteurs, an artist who's known as a superior songwriter, an animated storyteller, an intuitive soundtrack composer, a roughshod singer, a versatile actor, and a man whose many guises have kept his devotees amazed, enthralled, and often bedazzled.
He's worked with Francis Ford Coppola and is married to screenwriter Kathleen Brennan, but his cinematic narratives and disheveled, discordant melodies make him unique in terms of his artistic expression. Bad as Me, Waits' latest album -- also his first all-new effort in seven years -- succinctly sums up his stylistic frenzy in 13 songs. His vocal runs the gamut from a harsh growl -- sounding for all the world like the unholy offspring of Captain Beefheart and Howlin' Wolf -- to an unhinged yelp or, just as often, a desperate plea for late-night reconciliation. It boasts blues, ballads, bebop, jazz, jump 'n' jive, and music that defies description, an integration of styles that has become his stock-in-trade throughout a career that spans nearly 40 years. During that time, Waits -- often with wife Brennan in tow -- has created one of the most imaginative and inventive musical franchises of the modern era.
Given that eclectic stance and a sound that would seem impossible to replicate, it's notable that Waits' work was still eagerly seized upon by a number of artists early on. Signed to Asylum Records, home to the Southern California's singer/songwriter vanguard that held sway in the post-'60s soft-rock era, his first album, Closing Time, was produced by Jerry Yester, a member of rock's old guard whose credits included a stint in the Lovin' Spoonful. That and the other albums that immediately followed -- The Heart of Saturday Night, Nighthawks at the Diner, and Small Change in particular -- showed his talent for detailing hard-luck heroes, battered barflies, and others who reside in the underbelly of society. Their songs proved perfect fodder for artists looking for the same kind of insight and expression. Here's a list of some of the more notable Waits re-dos:
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