Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Born in Pomona, California, Waits' recording career began in 1971, after he relocated to Los Angeles and signed with Herb Cohen , manager of Frank Zappa, among others. After numerous abortive recording sessions, his first record, the melancholic, country-tinged Closing Time (1973) received warm reviews, but he first gained national attention when his "Ol' 55" was recorded by The Eagles in 1974. The Heart of Saturday Night showed his roots as a nightclub singer, half speaking and half crooning ballads, often with a soft jazz background. The 1975 album Nighthawks at the Diner, recorded in a studio but with a small audience to capture the ambience of a live show, captures this phase of his career, including the lengthy spoken interludes between songs that punctuated his live act.
Small Change (1976) featuring famed drummer Shelly Manne, was jazzier still, and songs such as "The Piano Has Been Drinking" and "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart" cemented his hard living reputation, with a lyrical style pitched somewhere between Raymond Chandler and Charles Bukowski. Foreign Affairs (1977) and Blue Valentine (1978) were in a similar vein, but showed further refinement of his artistic voice. 1980 saw the commencement of a long working relationship with Francis Ford Coppola, who asked him to provide music for his film One From The Heart . Waits tapped singer/songwriter Crystal Gayle as his vocal foil for the album. Waits would also act in Coppola's Rumblefish , The Outsiders, The Cotton Club and Dracula (as the insane Renfield), and work with such directors as Jim Jarmusch and Robert Altman. In August 1980, he married Kathleen Brennan , whom he had met on the set of One From The Heart . With his wife, he wrote and performed in Big Time, a slightly surreal concert movie. His wife is regularly credited as co-author of many songs on his later released albums, and is often cited by Waits as a major influence on his work.
1980s and later
After he left Asylum Records for Island Records in 1983, his music became less mainstream. His trio of albums from the mid-1980s, Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs and Frank's Wild Years, all featured some degree of eclectic instrumentation -- Waits' self described "Junkyard Orchestra"--often marrying soul music horn sections to avant-garde percussion reminiscent of Harry Partch's, or the distorted guitar of Marc Ribot. He also gradually altered his singing style, sounding less like the late-night crooner of the 70s, instead adopting a gravelly voice reminiscent of Howling Wolf and Captain Beefheart. The last of these albums -- an off-Broadway musical co-written with his wife -- and the later collaboration with William S. Burroughs on The Black Rider both demonstrated the increasing interest in theatre, which has resulted in a somewhat successful acting career as well as soundtrack work.
In the popular perception, however, he and his work remain mostly characterised by his rocky voice, his strong personality and theatrical presence on stage and the "late night smoky bars" humour of his texts ("I'd rather have a free bottle in front of me than a pre-frontal lobotomy."). Waits has been reported as having bipolar disorder. In essence, however, and despite his songs having been covered by famous stars such as Bruce Springsteen and Rod Stewart, Waits remains a cult performer, steadfastly outside the mainstream.
Waits has steadfastly refused to allow the use of his songs in commercials and has filed several lawsuits against advertisers who used his material without permission. The first lawsuit was filed in 1988 against Frito Lay, and resulted in a US$2.6 million judgement in Waits's favor. Frito Lay had approached Waits to use one of his songs in an advertisement. Waits declined the offer, and Frito Lay hired a Waits soundalike to sing a jingle similar to "Step Right Up," which is, ironically, a song Waits has called "an indictment of advertising."  ("Step Right Up" concludes with the lyric "What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away").
In 1993, Levi's used Screamin' Jay Hawkins's version of Waits's "Heartattack and Vine" in a commercial. Waits sued, and Levis agreed to cease all use of the song, and offered a full page apology in Billboard Magazine. 
In 2000, an Audi commercial broadcast in Spain featured music very similar to Waits's "Innocent When You Dream", after Waits first had declined when they approached him about using the original. A Spanish court recognized there had been a violation of Waits' moral rights, in addition to the infringement of copyright . The production company, Tandem Campany Guasch , was ordered to pay compensation to Waits through his Spanish publisher.
The Sons of Lee Marvin
Tom Waits has claimed on several occasions to being a member of the secret society, The Sons of Lee Marvin, a group founded by American director Jim Jarmusch in which all members bear a physical resemblence to actor Lee Marvin.
|1974||Heart of Saturday Night|
|1975||Nighthawks at the Diner||recorded live for small audience|
|1980||Heartattack and Vine|
|1982||One From the Heart||Movie Soundtrack|
|1987||Frank's Wild Years|
|1988||Big Time||Live CD, movie, video release|
|1991||Night on Earth||Movie soundtrack|
|1992||^ Bone Machine|
|1993||The Black Rider||Collaboraton w/ Wm. S. Burroughs|
|1999||+ Mule Variations|
+ Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album
- 1983 Anthology of Tom Waits (Elektra)
- 1991 The Early Years, Volume One
- 1993 The Early Years, Volume Two
- 1998 Beautiful Maladies : The Island Years
- 1991 Sailing the Seas of Cheese, by Primus: Waits does character vocals on Tommy The Cat
- 1992 Beautiful Mess , by Thelonious Monster : Waits appears as a guest singer on Adios Lounge
- 1993 Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet, by Gavin Bryars: Waits appears as guest singer
- 1999 Antipop, by Primus: Waits does vocals on Coattails of a Deadman
- 2000 Helium, by Tin Hat Trio: Waits appears as guest singer on Helium Reprise
- 2001 It's A Wonderful Life, by Sparklehorse : Waits does vocals on "Dog Door"
- 2002 For the Kids by various artists: Waits performs the lullaby "Bring Down the Branches"
- 2004 The Ride by Los Lobos: Waits does vocals on the track "Kitate"
- 2004 The Late Great Daniel Johnston by various artists: Waits covers Johnston's "King Kong"
- 1995 Temptation, Holly Cole
- 1995 Step Right Up, various artists
- 2000 New Coat of Paint, various artists
- 2001 Wicked Grin , John Hammond
- 2004 , various artists
- 1978 Movie debut as 'Mumbles' in Paradise Alley .
- 1980 Worked with Francis Ford Coppola on the soundtrack to One From The Heart .
- 1982 Soundtrack of One From The Heart . Nominated for an Academy Award for best original score.
- Played petrified man in carnival in The Stone Boy .
- 1983 Played Buck Merrill in The Outsiders.
- Played Bennie the pool hall owner in Rumble Fish.
- 1984 Played Irving Stark in The Cotton Club.
- 1986 Starred as Zack in Down by Law.
- 1987 Played Rudy The Kraut in Ironweed.
- Played Al Silk in Candy Mountain .
- 1989 Played the 'Punch & Judy Man' in .
- 1990 Played a plainclothes policeman in The Two Jakes.
- 1991 Played Wolf in At Play in the Fields of the Lord.
- 1992 Composer (With Kathleen Brennan) on American Heart .
- 1996 Composer on soundtrack of Dead Man Walking.
- Composer on soundtrack of The End of Violence .
- 'Cold Cold Ground' and 'Temptation' appeared on the soundtrack to Leolo .
- 1999 Mystery Men -- played an inventor who specialized in non-lethal weapons.
- 2003 Appeared in conversation with Iggy Pop in Coffee and Cigarettes: Somewhere In America (filmed in 1993).
- 2004 Composer (with Kathleen Brennan ) on soundtrack of Shrek 2. Also appears, in a shared role with Nick Cave, as an animated piano-playing pirate singing "A Little Drop Of Poison".
- 1973 Closing Time touring
- 1974-1975 The Heart Of Saturday Night touring
- 1975-1976 Small Change touring
- 1977 Foreign Affairs touring
- 1978-1979 Blue Valentine touring
- 1980-1982 Heartattack and Vine touring
- 1985 Rain Dogs touring
- 1987 Big Time touring
- 1999 Get Behind The Mule Tour
- 2004 Real Gone Tour
- Kazik Staszewski, Polish artist extensively covering Waits
- Holly Cole, Canadian artist covering Waits' songs in jazz style
- Official Site
- Waits hasn't had fun since 1962
- Tom Waits for No Man - a fan blog
- The Eyeball Kid - a fan blog
- Tom Waits Supplement - a compendium of information about Tom Waits and his works
- Tom Waits Fanatics - a Live Journal fan club
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