I love serendipity.
So there I was, minding my own business, driving home from taking McDoc to work. (Such is the Faustian bargain of being a one-car couple; if I need wheels during the day, I have to get up at whatever immoral hour the medical gods decide and do a bleary-eyed ride-along. This is the punishment that awaits musicians who misbehave, kids, so practice your scales, okay?)
Anyway, I was listening to NPR, as usual, and I happened to hear the nice man (Bob Edwards, I think) mention that today is the the 60th birthday of songwriter Tom Waits. The announcer referenced a quote by music writer Daniel Durchholz, describing Waits’ voice 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.” Nothing like a good laugh to make the whole concept of ‘morning’ more bearable!
Waits is one of those musicians that I can’t decide whether I love or hate. Sometimes his voice hits me like nails on a chalkboard, and other times it’s like the flame, toward which I am the helpless moth. (You did get that the second one is a good thing, right? 😉 )
A while back, I happened to see one of the films he’s appeared in, Down by Law. It’s not the kind of movie I would have sought out myself, being that it was one of those “two or three guys embark on an oddball adventure where they do various random shite while having supposedly profound conversations,” which is not usually my bag. But this was back when I had fallen in with a colorful crowd, so I went with it. To my surprise, I found the movie charmingly quirky (or is that quirkily charming?), and I was glad to see that Waits is one of those musicians whose foray into acting didn’t turn out to be deeply regrettable. (Ahem.)
Waits is known for creating rather mind-blowing cover tunes, applying his, yeah, distinctive style to other artists’ music. I’m rather fond of his version of Cole Porter’s “It’s All Right With Me:”
Oh, man, listening to this again, I just can’t help myself from tripping the metaphor fantastic… It’s how I imagine Louis Armstrong would sound after crossing the desert on foot with Lawrence of Arabia… It’s like the way certain, really strong, coffee tastes, like you’re licking out an ash tray, and I love it, even though I detest cigarettes… It’s like when you put way too much wasabi in your soy sauce, and it makes you feel like someone stuck napalm up your nose… Okay, I’m done. 😛
A couple last things, though. While scanning Waits’ wiki, I was reminded that he lives in Sonoma, Calif. (which is just over a series of gentle rolling hills from where I grew up, in the Napa Valley), with his wife and three children. Children? Uh-oh!
What kind of dreams would you have after being lulled to sleep by this?
(Just kidding, of course; I’m sure Tom is a wonderful husband and father, and I’m pleased to note his many collaborations with his wife, Kathleen Brennan. 🙂 )
Happy 60th Birthday, Tom!
Here’s a seasonal bonus track, to play us out, as they say in showbiz!