Thomas Alan Waits, or Tom Waits, was born on December 7, 1949, in California, the United States. He is a vocalist, songwriter, and actor who is considered one of the most identifiable voices in country music. He beautifully blends swampy blues, beat poetry, jazz, 1930s-era cabaret, and post-civil war songs with carnival music and innovative rhythms, forming a uniquely individual musical realm. What makes him truly inimitable is that his work has been emulated but never been duplicated. He has won two Grammy Awards and in 2011, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He was also included in “Rolling Stone’s” 100 Greatest Singers list (2010), and their 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time list (2015).
Thomas Alan Waits, or Tom Waits, is an American singer and performer who is known for his non-conformist songs in genres such as blues, jazz, and vaudeville. He carved out a place for himself in the blossoming music scene of 1970s America. Waits was born in California on December 7, 1949, to teachers Alma Fern McMurray and Jesse Frank Waits. His parents divorced when he was a child. He would often accompany his father on trips to Mexico, so his work and style are deeply influenced by Mexican music. He started performing in local bands while attending Hilltop High School. Later, he dropped out of high school when he was 18.
Blessed with a seductive and mellow voice, Waits composes music and creates songs in addition to singing and acting. Never a crowd follower, he experimented with a variety of musical styles and enjoys traditional ballads apart from country music. He is passionate about his work and has been singing for over four decades. Given his non-conformist and unorthodox image and temperament, his music has garnered mixed reviews in the U.S. He has a passionate cult following around the world.
He was interested in music right from an early age. Bob Dylan, Lord Buckley, Jack Kerouac, and Louis Armstrong were among his favorite musicians. However, he never tried to emulate them and worked hard to improve his distinctive style. He married his longtime collaborator, Kathleen Brennan, in 1980. They have three children: Kelle Simone, Casey, and Sullivan. The family resides in Sonoma County, California.
His musical career begins when he bags his first gig while working as a doorman at a San Diego nightclub.
Waits releases his debut album, “Closing Time,” inspired by folk music.
His first album to reach the Australian Top 40 is “Heartattack and Vine,” which makes him popular throughout the world.
His Grammy Award-winning album, “Mule Variations”, becomes a worldwide success, charting in 14 countries and earning a gold certification in the U.S. and Canada.
In March 2011, Waits is inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Why We Love Tom Waits
His love for his wife
According to Waits, his wife has a strong influence on his music. He also credits her with co-writing his songs. She helped him divert away from drinking, which ultimately saved his life.
His humble rise
Waits worked several sundry jobs before earning fame in singing. He worked for the fire department on the California-Mexico border for three years. He also worked as a coastguard.
His community service
He collaborated with photographer Michael O'Brien on a book, “Hard Ground,” that tried to bring attention to the struggles of the homeless. He also issued a limited-edition chapbook based on a long poem he penned which was inspired by O'Brien's images.
5 Surprising Facts
He is a quiz lover
Waits keeps a journal of fascinating facts as he enjoys quizzes and trivia.
He worked as a doorman
At 19, Waits worked as a doorman at the Heritage Coffeehouse in San Diego.
His debut movie role
He got his first role in the 1978 movie, “Paradise Alley,” due to his connection with the actor and director, Sylvester Stallone.
He invented a musical instrument
Waits once built a new instrument called the Strata Dumpster, or the Dumpstalele, by stretching piano strings across a metal dumpster.
He collects vintage megaphones
At the suggestion of his wife, Waits began using vintage megaphones or bullhorns to magnify his voice, and soon became a collector in the 1980s.
Tom Waits FAQs
Is Tom Waits married?
Yes. He is married to Kathleen Brennan.
Does Waits have children?
Yes. He has three children: Casey, Kelly, and Sullivan.
Does Waits have siblings?
Yes. He has two sisters, one younger and one older.
Tom Waits’s birthday dates