Tom Waits – Make It Rain
American singer and musician Tom Waits was born in Pomona, California, on December 7, 1949. After early experience performing in nightclubs, he began recording in Los Angeles in the early 1970s and has continued to release new music for four decades. His smoky, gravelly voice is as distinctive as his stylistic mix of blues, jazz and pop; his eclectic instrumentation; and his lyrics about drifters and bohemians living on the wrong side of the tracks. Waits has also had a career as an actor, appearing in more than two dozen films.
After finishing school, Waits worked as a doorman at a San Diego nightclub, served briefly in the Coast Guard and continued to perform his music whenever and wherever he could. He moved to Los Angeles in 1971 and was signed to the Asylum record label in 1972. While living in his car or in cheap hotels, he recorded his first album, Closing Time, which was released in 1973. His contract with Asylum lasted through the 1970s and resulted in further recordings, including Small Change (1976) and the live album Nighthawks at the Diner (1975).
Waits’s signature musical style was early established as an offbeat combination of old vaudeville tunes, blues, jazz and pop. Singing in his raspy, gravelly voice over an accompaniment of piano, guitar and strings, he narrated his dark, occasionally comical tales of misfits and loners living out desperate adventures in gritty urban settings.
Waits’s work during the 1980s featured more eclectic musical arrangements, as he added keyboards and brass instruments to his orchestration. On albums like 1983’s Swordfishtrombones and 1985’s Rain Dogs, he was also increasingly influenced by additional musical genres, including cabaret, tango and European folk sources.
His recordings during the 1990s continued this experimental trend and were praised by critics. Bone Machine, released in 1992, and 1999’s Mule Variations were both awarded Grammys. His 1998 compilation album Beautiful Maladies and the box set Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards (2006) were also enthusiastically received. Although Waits has never produced chart hits or sold albums in record-breaking numbers, he has attracted a loyal audience and has become something of a musician’s musician. His songs have been covered by artists as diverse as Rod Stewart, Bruce Springsteen and Scarlett Johansson. Waits was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.