The best albums of all time according to Tom Waits

One of the greatest songwriters of our times, Tom Alan Waits talked in his poetic about the pain of the forgotten by America, the problems of Western society and the fake “American Dream”.

Waits is one of the greatest expressions of underground artist. He’s always been nonconformist, anti-star, rebel. When he was a teenager, he was forced by money problems to do humble jobs. He learns the piano, and he loves jazz music and the beat generation.

One evening, under the influence of alcohol, he begins to play some classics of the 40s and the 50s in the old piano of the restaurant where he works as dishwasher. People start to listen to his stories, to participate, laugh and interact with his bluesman voice. The owner of the restaurant understands his talent and proposes him to start entertaining the customers every evening. He will play more and more often, on the worst stages of Los Angeles, accompanied by a band of jazz musicians, and he begins to write about that world of desperadoes that he sees every night.

In one of those clubs he became a friend of Charles Bukowski. Waits played his guitar, while Bukowski performed one of his readings.

His career began when the producer Herb Cohen got impressed and hired him for the label Asylum. Tom Waits releases Closing Time, an excellent LP with some of his best compositions, already marked by that jazz sound that will represent one of his trademarks.

Many other artists appreciate his style, helping to spread his name. In his very long musical career he made 22 albums and, as an actor, he played in 27 films. On Spotify a playlist of 76 songs, edited personally by Tom Waits, retraces his musical career: it’s called This is Tom Waits.

In its history, music produced way more albums than what we can hear in a lifetime. That’s why we need to filter, select, learn how to choose what to listen.

The one below is Tom Waits’ list of his favorite albums, shared by himself some time ago. You can find in it big classics, like Frank Sinatra, The Roling Stones, James Brown and Bob Dylan, but also something more unexpected. Listening to them is undoubtedly a formative experience. Here is the list, sorted by release date:

  • In the Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra (1955)
  • Solo Monk by Thelonious Monk (1965)
  • Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart (1969)
  • Exile On Main Street by The Rolling Stones (1972)
  • The Sinking of the Titanic by Gavin Bryers (1975)
  • The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan (1975)
  • Lounge Lizards by Lounge Lizards (1979)
  • Rum Sodomy and the Lash by The Pogues (1985)
  • I’m Your Man by Leonard Cohen (1988)
  • The Specialty Sessions by Little Richard (1989)
  • Startime by James Brown (1991)
  • Bohemian-Moravian Bands by Texas-Czech (1993)
  • The Yellow Shark by Frank Zappa (1993)
  • Passion for Opera Aria (1994)
  • Rant in E Minor by Bill Hicks (1997)
  • Prison Songs: Murderous Home Alan Lomax Collection (1997)
  • Cubanos Postizos by Marc Ribot (1998)
  • Houndog by Houndog ( 1999)
  • Purple Onion by Les Claypool (2002)
  • The Delivery Man by Elvis Costello (2004)

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