Tom Waits is a songwriting genius. His tracks have been covered by artists from nearly every musical genre, and his music has become the fabric of pain and heartache and solace for decades.
What’s amazing about his songs is that every one of them sounds perfect for the artist who covered them. They sound like Waits sculpted them for that artist or group’s specific strengths.
On this edition of K-Chuck Radio, I will show you what I mean about this. First, I’ll post a clip of a Tom Waits song as performed by Waits himself, and then show that same song as performed by another artist. And you can hear what I’m saying is true.
Let’s start with his 1973 single “Ol’ 55.”
That same song sounds incredible when you add the vocals of the Eagles. Don’t argue, you know I’m right.
Tom Waits’ album Heartache and Vine has this gravely performance of his song “Jersey Girl.”
But put that into a life performance by Bruce Springsteen … and it just sounds fantastic.
The title track from Tom Waits’ album Foreign Affairs is strong enough on its own, as Waits’ lyrical gymnastics balance well with the sparse orchestration.
Now take away the orchestration, turn it into a total vocal performance – and you’ve got a classic song by Manhattan Transfer.
From the motion picture Rain Dogs, you have Tom Waits crooning the song “Downtown Train.”
But how much more incredible is this song when it’s sung by rock vocal superstar Rod Stewart …
One more … I don’t think there’s a recording of Waits’ song “Rainbow Sleeves” with him on vocals, but there is one incredible performance of the song from Rickie Lee Jones. You know, the girl who ruined my life by singing a song about Chuck E being in love …
So when your heart is smashed and on the floor and you have no way of picking it up … go put on a Tom Waits album. If there are no Tom Waits albums around … there’s plenty of artists who can take a Tom Waits song and make it their own.
K-Chuck Radio. We’ll be there when you’re alone and lonely and we’ll stay with you so that you’re not alone and lonely.