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Tom Waits

Tom Waits

Thomas Alan "Tom" Waits (born December 7, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and actor. 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 has built up a distinctive musical persona. He has worked as a composer for movies and musical plays and has acted in supporting roles in films including Paradise Alley and Bram Stoker's Dracula; he also starred in the 1986 film Down by Law. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his soundtrack work on One from the Heart.. Waits was born at Park Avenue Hospital in Pomona, California to Jesse Frank Waits and Alma Johnson McMurray, both schoolteachers. His father was of Scots-Irish descent and his mother was a Norwegian American. After Waits' parents divorced in 1960, he lived with his mother in Whittier, and then moved to National City, in San Diego County, near the Mexico–United States border. Waits, who taught himself how to play the piano on a neighbor's instrument, often took trips to Mexico with his father, who taught Spanish; he would later say that he found his love of music during these trips through a Mexican ballad that was "probably a Ranchera, you know, on the car radio with my dad.". By 1965, while attending Hilltop High School within the Sweetwater Union High School District, Chula Vista, Waits was playing in an R&B/soul band called The Systems and had begun his first job at Napoleone Pizza House in National City (about which he would later sing on "I Can't Wait to Get Off Work (And See My Baby on Montgomery Avenue)" from Small Change and "The Ghosts of Saturday Night (After Hours at Napoleone's Pizza House)" on The Heart of Saturday Night). He later admitted that he was not a fan of the 1960s music scene, stating, "I wasn't thrilled by Blue Cheer, so I found an alternative, even if it was Bing Crosby." Five years later, he was working as a doorman at the Heritage nightclub in San Diego—where artists of every genre performed—when he did his first paid gig for $6. A fan of Bob Dylan, Lord Buckley, Jack Kerouac, Louis Armstrong, Howlin' Wolf, and Charles Bukowski, Waits began developing his own idiosyncratic musical style....
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