Tom Waits’ Wisdom Still Rings True

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There’s no other artist quite like Tom Waits. The songwriter began life as a barroom balladeer, his homespun nuggets of wisdom sitting in a vein of twilight, after hours introspection. His mid-career run, however, spun his work in another direction – fusing archaic aspects of 20s and 30s American music with some defiantly left-field production aspects, his voice deepened, and took on harsh but expressive new hues.

As a critic once put it, he developed a voice that “sounded like it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smoke house for a few months and then taken outside and run over with a car…”

Out now, ‘Swordfishtrombones’ (1983), ‘Rain Dogs’ (1985) and ‘Frank’s Wild Years’ (1987) sound better than ever, re-issued on vinyl and CD in a project personally overseen by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan.

Alongside this, we’ve decided to revisit a golden quote from Tom Waits. The songwriter’s True Confessions was a chapbook made available on his 2008 tour, and it featured a surreal yet revealing interview between Tom Waits and, well, himself.

Here’s a choice nugget:

“We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. Leona Helmsley’s dog made 12 million last year… and Dean McLaine, a farmer in Ohio made $30,000. It’s just a gigantic version of the madness that grows in every one of our brains. We are monkeys with money and guns.”

Remarkable, and true.

He also offered some ‘words to live by’ and responded in typically surreal but striking style:

Jim Jarmusch once told me “Fast, Cheap, and Good… pick two. If it’s fast and cheap it wont be good. If it’s cheap and good it won’t be fast. If it’s fast and good it wont be cheap.” Fast, cheap and good… pick (2) words to live by.

Re-visit ‘Swordfishtrombones’ below.

Photo Credit: Anton Corbijn