Tom Waits and the Rediscovery of Music

Tom Waits b/n

Tom Waits b/n (Photo credit: Barakattack)

Just like in many other aspects of my life, I have been stuck into a routine when it comes to music. I have actually listened to the same songs since forever and I haven’t had a musical revelation in years. My musical taste is a bit eclectic, but some things that never miss from my playlists are Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash, Patti Smith, Edith Piaf and classical stuff. I like many other things, but these names have been a constant soundtrack to my life.

Last year I made perhaps the most stunning musical discovery in the form of Tom Waits. I’m actually baffled I hadn’t heard of him before, since Spotify and Last.fm seem to recommend him as similar to Cohen and Dylan all the time. This goes to show the range of my musical illiteracy.

I have indeed found many similarities between Waits’ music and the songs of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan and just like them, Waits is above all a poet. His lyrics are incredibly well-crafted and convey a brutal raw emotion that lingers after the tune is over. Even though most of Waits’ songs are dark and melancholic, they don’t invite to depression and hopelessness as many of Cohen’s do, and I found myself inspired whenever I listened to them. Waits has the most perfect rugged voice I have ever heard. Even though it sometimes resembles a grater and it takes a while to get used to it, you can get really hooked to it. The only thing I don’t like about Waits is that for some reason he makes me want to get drunk most of the times.

Waits considers Charles Bukowski a major influence and some of his recurring motifs are related to loneliness, dark places, sadness, and separations. I like Bukowski, so maybe that’s why Waits got to my heart so quickly. I do not have a favourite Waits album, and I do what I do with all of my favourite artists: press play and enjoy them all. I have listened to most of his stuff on Spotify, and I think his most stunning piece is “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen), also referred to as “Waltzing Matilda” because of the chorus. The opening track on “Small Change” (1976), this song is truly haunting and it summarises perfectly what Waits is about.