Tom Waits (born December 7, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and actor known for his musical tales of bohemians, drifters and misfits and for his stylistic blend of blues, folk and jazz. Waits has a distinctive voice, described by critic Daniel Durchholz as sounding like "it was soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car." With this trademark growl, his incorporation of pre-rock music styles such as blues, jazz, and vaudeville, and experimental tendencies verging on industrial music.
Waits' lyrics frequently present atmospheric portraits of grotesque, often seedy characters and places—although he has also shown a penchant for more conventional ballads. He has a cult following and has influenced subsequent songwriters despite having little radio or music video support. His songs are best-known through cover versions by more commercial artists: "Jersey Girl", performed by Bruce Springsteen, "Ol' '55", by the Eagles, and "Downtown Train", by Rod Stewart. Although Waits' albums have met with mixed commercial success in his native United States, they have occasionally achieved gold album sales status in other countries.
Waits has built up a distinctive musical persona. He has worked as a composer for movies and musicals and has acted in supporting roles in films, including Paradise Alley and Bram Stoker's Dracula. He also starred in Jim Jarmusch's 1986 film Down by Law. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his soundtrack work on One from the Heart.
Browse our unique collection of Tom Waits photos and prints below
Pausing at the crossroads in Santa Rosa, California 1999, Tom Waits casts a glance of displeasure, or so it appears, over his shoulder
Tom Waits onstage at the Victoria Apollo, London in March, 1981.
Tom Waits photographed by Ed Caraeff in 1972 during the cover shoot for his album Closing Time.
Tom Waits messing about in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant during a promotional event for the release of his album Mule Variations
Tom Waits in a Chinese diner in Santa Rosa, California in January 1999
Tom Waits backstage after a gig at the Texas Opry House, Houston, Texas in 1976.
Tom Waits larking about in Santa Rosa, Califonia in January 1999 during an international press junket for the release Mule Variations
On the railways tracks in Santa Rosa, California in January 1999, Guido Harari captures a playful Tom Waits
Tom Waits captured whilst on a shoot promoting his album Bone Machine. The cape he is running with is another photographer's backdrop.
Tom Waits chilling out in a Chinese diner in Santa Rosa, California in January 1999 whilst on a photo shoot
Contact sheet of Tom Waits reading 'The Mammoth Book of Oddities' in a diner in California in 1999
Tom Waits relaxing with a beer in Place des Vosges, Paris during a photo shoot for his album Bone Machine
Tom Waits siting on his blue 1970 Coupe de Ville whilst on a photoshoot in Califonia in 1999