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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Raising Idiosyncratic To Art Form

Want a surefire way to get a conversation started? The next time you have guests, put any Tom Waits recording on as "background" music or create a Tom Waits station via Pandora radio. But, be sure the music is just loud enough to be heard. In a short time, I'm willing to bet someone will say "What are we listening to?". Presto = conversation.

For almost 40 years, Waits has been raising idiosyncratic to art form. He first came into the public ear as the composer of "Ol' 55" (on the Eagles third album), and also wrote a song widely thought to be Bruce Springsteen's - "Jersey Girl". Hearing those two songs (or several others Waits' songs made popular by mainstream artists) performed by their composer is an aural experience. I have a compilation recording called "We Get a Kick Out of Jazz" featuring Norah Jones, Liz Wright, and others doing fairly straightforward arrangements of jazz standards. On it, Waits does a song called "Little Man". It's a real attention grabber, I promise.

I have my brother to thank for turning me onto Waits and also for keeping this original talent on my musical radar. 28 years ago, at a party celebrating our private wedding the week before, my brother sang a Waits song called "Better Off Without A Wife" to my (then new) wife and I.  And this blog post was inspired by my brother singing Waits' "Shiver me Timbers" to our daughter at her college graduation party about a week ago. In between, many Tom Waits songs have enchanted me. And I keep a Pandora station (which I've named "other weirdness") that features Waits ready, in case conversation stalls. 

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