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->''"We all hear our own stories in our favorite songs (that is why Tom Waits sings in werewolf language--you can pretend it is about anything you want!)."''
-->-- '''John Hodgman''', ''MoreInformationThanYouRequire''

->''"This is a man who writes songs for the angels and sings them in the voice of Beelzebub. The Carny, the Sideshow, the circus freak show is a world I've always wanted to be in, and that's exactly where Tom Waits is."''
-->-- '''Creator/TerryGilliam'''

[[DescribeTopicHere Describe Tom Waits here]].

Okay... but how?

Well, everyone seems to use the [[ReviewerStockPhrases cliched phrases like "whiskey soaked," "gravelly-voiced," "barfly," "hobo," "raconteur troubadour."]]

With that out of the way, Tom Waits is an innovative musician, generally classified as [[AlternativeRock Alternative]], but borrowing heavily from European and American folk music, gospel, lounge music, pop, the blues, cabaret, and occasionally country and even rap (he beatboxes on the 2004 album ''Real Gone'' and Atmosphere's ''When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold'', and he appears on N.A.S.A's "Spacious Thoughts").

His work can be divided into two periods, his jazzy, lounge singer period, lasting from the '70s to the late '80s, and the reinvented, experimental sound of his "Swordfishtrombones" album on, and his shift to a mysterious, Carnival-and-Sinister-Junkman persona. This shift was caused by his abandonment by Asylum Records and his marriage to his co-songwriter and muse Kathleen Brennan. Brennan introduced him to the music of CaptainBeefheart, whose influence can be seen in "Swordfishtrombone" and later albums.

He is known for his theatricality, dark and dense lyrical style, and a charming sense of humor - he's one of the few musicians that tend to get long interview sessions on late night talk shows, occasionally getting more laughs than the host. He wrote the scores of four musicals: "Franks Wild Years" [sic], written with Kathleen, and his collaborations with Robert Wilson, "The Black Rider", "Alice," "Theatre/{{Woyzeck}}" (the last being released as ''Blood Money'').

He has also acted in several films, notably ''Film/CoffeeAndCigarettes'' as himself, ''Film/DownByLaw'' as a radio DJ who gets framed, ''Film/MysteryMen'' as a MadScientist, ''Film/BramStokersDracula'' as [[TheRenfield Renfield]], and ''Film/WristcuttersALoveStory'' as Kneller, whose dog is missing. He plays Mr. Nick (the Devil) in ''Film/TheImaginariumOfDoctorParnassus'', which also happens to be HeathLedger's last film, and he was a bird named Virgil in Rosto A.D.'s ''MonsterOfNix''. He also played one of the eponymous ''Film/SevenPsychopaths''.

In 2011, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, making him either the second (after Music/{{REM}}) or third (depending on if you count Music/VelvetUnderground or Music/TalkingHeads) AlternativeRock artist to be inducted.

References to Waits were a RunningGag on ''Series/MysteryScienceTheater3000''.

Also, for some reason, he's the curator of ''Radio/TheMuseumOfEverything''.

Vote for your favourite Tom Waits album by heading over to the [[http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/crowner.php/Sandbox/BestAlbumTomWaits Best Album crowner]]!

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!!He provides examples of:

* ADateWithRosiePalms: From ''Nighthawks At The Diner'':
--> "Well usually about 2.30 in the morning you've ended up taking advantage of yourself. There ain't no way around that you know. Yeah, making a scene with a magazine, there ain't no way around. "
* AlbumTitleDrop: From ''Closing Time'' "Now it's closing time/the music's fading out." Which comes from "I Hope I don't Fall In Love With You" and not "Closing Time," the song, also on the ''Closing Time'' album.
* AntiLoveSong: Several examples.
** Especially notable that he didn't really start writing actual love songs until his sixth album, ''Heart Attack and Vine''.
* ArsonMurderAndJaywalking: From "God's Away On Business":
--> "Who are the ones that we kept in charge? Killers, thieves, [[AmoralAttorney lawyers!]]"
* BadassBoast: "Goin' Out West" is all about his character boasting about his looks and how badass he is, specifically saying he knows karate and voodoo and can handle himself in a high speed chase. He's got the scars and chest hair to prove it.
* BandToon: While not a straight example, he was featured in an early music video featuring a rotoscoped version of himself and a stripper. It was called "Tom Waits For No One," and was unreleased until published on Website/YouTube. It's the only Oscar-winning music video of all time.
* BeneathTheEarth: He often uses subterranean imagery, such as his songs "Underground," "Dirt in the Ground," and "Down, Down, Down." "Underground" is supposedly about Tom Waits' dream of a colony of dwarves living under a city.
* BigApplesauce: ''Rain Dogs'' was written during a point where Tom was living in New York. It shows.
* BigScrewedUpFamily: "Cemetery Polka"
* CarefulWithThatAxe: Near the end of "Swordfishtrombone," a song where most of the vocals are somewhat quiet, Tom Waits lets out a loud scream.
* Literature/{{Child Ballad|s}}: He has his own version of Ballad #10, "[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twa_Sisters The Twa Sisters]]," from his album "Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards." [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzuPT5NqXGY Take a listen]].
* CircusOfFear: His songs are soaked to the bone in the imagery of the carnival, and the Devil Pegleg in ''The Black Rider'' is the leader of a twisted carnival of lost souls.
* ClusterFBomb: "Hell Broke Luce" has a couple of F-bombs in it.
* CollectorOfTheStrange: In real life, Waits collects exotic instruments and strange bits of Americana, such as a mouse trap activated by the mouse chewing through a string (as seen in his 2012 appearance on Letterman's show).
%%* ConceptVideo
* CoolOldGuy: Oh, definitely.
* CoolShades: "In Shades"
* CosmicPlaything: The main character of ''Blood Money,'' Woyzeck, is definitely one of these.
* TheCoverChangesTheMeaning: His version of "[[Disney/SnowWhiteAndTheSevenDwarfs Heigh Ho]]" has been described as "the theme tune for midget slave labor." [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUokR-lXmlc Take a listen and see if you don't agree.]]
** Legend has it that Disney were on the phone when they heard about it, but not for the reason you'd think. His version is so weird that, supposedly, not even Disney recognized it as their own song.
** A very strange example. ''Army Ants'' is taken from a book about insects, but the way he reads it, sounds like the ramblings of a ConspiracyTheorist.
* CrapsackWorld: "Town with No Cheer", "9th and Hennepin", "Potter's Field", and "Children's Story" (which he didn't write). A lot of the settings he has used are this.
* DanceSensation: Parodied with "The Metropolitan Glide", which - from the instructions given in the lyrics - is utterly undanceable.
* DarkerAndEdgier: "Bone Machine".
* DeadpanSnarker: Plenty of interviews show that he is one. His habit of telling tall tales at live shows also qualifies.
* DevilButNoGod: a common theme in his lyrics is to play with this trope in some way, such as ''God's away on business'', or ''Heart Attack and Vine's'' "There ain't no Devil, there's just God when he's drunk."
* DreamTeam: "N.A.S.A. featuring KoolKeith and Tom Waits". Only one song ("Spacious Thoughts") unfortunately.
* EarlyInstallmentWeirdness: Some people who were introduced to him during his Island Records/ANTI-Records years find his stuff from the '70s through the early '80s to be this. The early stuff is actually mostly ''less'' weird.
* EitherOrTitle: Most of the songs on ''Small Change'' are titled this way - for instance, "Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets To The Wind In Copenhagen)".
* EverythingSoundsSexierInFrench: Two of Tom Waits' musicals-turned-albums - ''Alice'' and ''The Black Rider'' - use frequent German words and fake accents to creepy effect. This reaches its logical conclusion with "Kommieneszuspadt" (sung by the White Rabbit), whose lack of any real meaning cleverly allows the listener to imagine something far nastier than anyone could ever write.
* FlowerMotifs: "The Briar and the Rose" most prominently, but really, this is all over ''The Black Rider''.
* GagDub: {{Inverted}} in [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5X4N2exOsU this video]], which overlays "God's Away On Business" with video clips that make it appear to be sung by [[Series/SesameStreet Cookie Monster]].
** And, even more disturbingly, Cookie Monster performing [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbiioBFkD_Q Hell Broke Luce]].
* GallowsHumor: Common, with ''Frank's Wild Years'' being the most obvious example.
* GenreBusting: At least one third of his catalog falls into this category.
* GermansLoveDavidHasselhoff: InUniverse in "Big in Japan", which is a send-up of such an individual ó though Tom Waits is slightly more popular in Europe than he is in America.
* GrotesqueGallery: Invoked with the line "My friends think I'm ugly / I've got a masculine face", from "Goin' Out West". On top of that, Waits - despite actually being a fairly handsome guy, given his age - makes a lot of really weird faces. Plus the numerous songs about circus/carnival freaks.
* GrowingUpSucks: "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Qw2LGSZ9FY I Don't Wanna Grow Up]]", obviously.
* GutturalGrowler: Does this even need to be said?
* HarshVocals: Ditto.
* HaveAGayOldTime: Often done deliberately, since Tom loves resurrecting old slang expressions. "I Can't Wait To Get Off Work And See My Baby" is one of the more egregious examples, using "jerk off" to mean "slack off".
* HellHotel: the music video for "God's Away on Business" looks like a hotel, but it was actually filmed ''at his house.'' By the son of BobDylan. While it is entirely plausible that the emus were added for the video shoot, it is equally possible that Tom Waits just lets live emus wander around his house.
* HollywoodToneDeaf: For "The Piano Has Been Drinking", Waits lapses into this with both his vocals and the instruments (including numerous missed piano cues), all done intentionally to give the idea that the singer is drunk.
* HookerWithAHeartOfGold: The narrator from "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" is definitely one.
* IncrediblyLamePun: The stories he tells during his concerts are often littered with these, as shown on the second disc of "Glitter And Doom Live:"
--> "I've never known a lobster to donate anything to charity. You wanna know why? They're shellfish!"
--> (Audience groans)
* IronicNurseryTune: "Midnight Lullaby" riffs on "Song of Sixpence", "Jockey Full of Bourbon" features "Ladybird, Ladybird," and "Clap Hands" features "3,6,9, the Goose Drank Wine," but without any sinister intent. But a better example of this trope is his use of lullaby-like sounds on ''Alice'' and ''Blood Money'', in "Everything You Can Think Of Is True" and "Misery Is the River of the World." Also found on ''Blood Money'' is the track "Lullaby," an original lullaby with sinister, depressing lyrics.
** [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUokR-lXmlc Here's]] the most disturbing cover of [[Disney/SnowWhite a Disney song]] ever recorded. Appropriately, the album's called ''Stay Awake''.
* KeithRichards: On ''Rain Dogs,'' offers guitar and backing vocals in "Union Square," "Big Black Mariah" and "Blind Love."
** And on ''Bone Machine'', he and Tom do a Gravel And Gravel duet on "That Feel".
** Richards makes a collaborative comeback on ''Bad As Me'', providing guitar parts for the songs "Chicago", "Satisfied", "Last Leaf" (in which he also sings backup), and "Hell Broke Luce". He's even name-dropped along with MickJagger in "[[ShoutOut Satisfied]]".
-->Now Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards/I will scratch where I've been itching.
* KnifeThrowingAct: "Circus" from his 2004 album ''Real Gone'' features a knife throwing act as part of the eponymous travelling show.
-->Only once, in Sheboygan, did he miss. And he took off a miniscule portion of her ear.
* ILied: Before playing "Innocent When You Dream", "This is a song my dad taught me when I was a kid. Thatís a lie. This is a song I learned from kids I met in a back alley. Thatís also a lie. This is a song I learned from Creator/GregoryPeck. That too is a lie. Theyíre all lies. The whole song is a lie. No itís not. I learned this song from Pavarotti."
* LaughingMad: After Frank of the song "Frank's Wild Years" has murdered his wife and doused his house in gasoline, he parks across the street and watches it burn, laughing.
* LipstickMark
* LyricalColdOpen: "Walking Spanish", "Flower's Grave", "Alice" and others.
* LyricalDissonance: "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1I9GqxDA4ac Frank's Wild Years]]". The song on ''Swordfishtrombones'' specifically, not the album. Generally, that voice makes touching love ballads sound like funeral songs.
* {{Mockumentary}}: Several of his performance arts pieces and interviews are in this style.
* NeoclassicalPunkZydecoRockabilly: [[UpToEleven Great Scott.]] The genres can change at the drop of a hat, often within the same album.
* NightmareFace: [[http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/7d/TomWaits-BoneMachine.jpg The cover of Bone Machine.]]
* NightmareFuelStationAttendant: Just ''look'' at him. There's a reason Creator/TerryGilliam cast (typecast?) him as TheDevil.
* NotChristianRock: References to God, the Devil, Jesus, and other religious motifs are fairly common in his lyrics (notably "Way Down in the Hole," which was even covered by the Gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama), but whether that's a statement of faith or just the influence of Gospel/Americana style is [[EveryoneIsJesusInPurgatory anybody's guess]]. After all, this is the same man who once opined: "...there ain't no Devil/There's just God when he's drunk."
* OdeToSobriety: "The Piano Has Been Drinking" is a type 1.
* OpeningChorus: "Theatre/{{Woyzeck}}" features "Misery's the River of the World." Notably, only the opener on the album, and not in the musical.
* ProtestSong: "The Day After Tomorrow", an anti-war song, "Road to Peace," about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and "Hell Broke Luce", about the suicide of Iraq War veteran Jeff Lucey.
* RealSongThemeTune and ThematicThemeTune: ''TheWire'' uses "Way Down In The Hole". Each season with a different version - season 1 by The Blind Boys of Alabama, season 2 was Waits's original, season 3 was by The Neville Brothers, Season 4 was an R&B version by Domaje, and season 5's version is by Steve Earle)
* Main/{{Reconstruction}}: His music since ''Swordfishtrombones'' revives outdated Vocal Jazz of the likes of Music/LouisArmstrong, but with a strong influence from rock and even industrial music.
* RockOpera
* ScrewTheMoneyIHaveRules: Waits has turned down numerous offers to use his songs in commercials, even going so far as to sue companies to prevent it, the one exception being for a charity.
** Though Waits is generally considered an UnreliableNarrator, both he and others have repeatedly stressed that were it not for said lawsuits he never would have been able to pursue his career as long as he did. He wound up making far more from refusing to allow his music be used in adverts than he ever did from his modest-at-best album sales.
* SelfBackingVocalist: Waits tends to be the only guy doing vocals on most of his albums - exceptions include ''Rain Dogs'' and ''Bone Machine'' (KeithRichards) and the ''OneFromTheHeart'' soundtrack (Crystal Gayle).
** Don't forget about Bette Midler on ''I Never Talk to Strangers'' from the album Foreign Affair.
* ShapedLikeItself: In the song "New Year's Eve," "what sounded like fireworks turned out to be just what it was."
* ShoutOut: To Edward Hopper's painting "The Nighthawks" in ''Nighthawks at the Diner''.
** ''Film/AFistfulOfDollars'' can't change the fact that Small Change got rained on with his own .38.
* SignsOfTheEndTimes: "Earth Died Screaming" deals with this.
* SloganYellingMegaphoneGuy: Part of his stage persona.
* SnakeOilSalesman: He plays one in "Step Right Up," cramming as many AdvertisingTropes as possible into hawking a product.
* SopranoAndGravel: Pretty much any time he performs a duet, probably most notably with Bette Midler and Crystal Gayle.
** Spectacularly averted in his duets with Music/KeithRichards, though.
* SoundtrackDissonance: A meta example. ņ la Music/PinkFloyd and ''Film/TheWizardOfOz'', a fan synced Waits' albums ''Foreign Affair'' and ''Blood Money'' with, unbelievably... Disney's ''Disney/{{Pinocchio}}.'' The scariest part? It works ''[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGc2qHfS--o perfectly.]]''
* {{Spoonerism}}: Occurs in several quotes attributed to Waits, such as "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy" and "Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends."
* StalkerWithACrush: The album ''Alice'' is all about this. Some of the songs are tragic odes to a love that can never be, while others are more sinister. Reaches probably its most uncomfortable point with "Watch Her Disappear."
* StarCrossedLovers: [[ExaggeratedTrope Exaggerated]] in his song [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRSL7K5y8cg "Fish and Bird"]], off of the above ''Alice''. It still manages to be a TearJerker.
* AStormIsComing: "Earth Died Screaming" and "Strange Weather."
* StylisticSuck: "The Piano Has Been Drinking" and "I'll Take New York".
* SunglassesAtNight: "Burma Shave". Complete with RealityEnsues.
-->And when they pulled her from the wreck, you know, she still had on her shades...
* SuperFunHappyThingOfDoom: The trope name is invoked almost literally as the title of the concert album ''Glitter and Doom.''
* [[spoiler:SuspiciouslySpecificDenial: At the end of "The Piano's Been Drinking", the ''entire song'' is revealed to be one.]]
* TalkyBookends: In the video for "Downtown Train."
* TechnologyMarchesOn: Those of the cellphone generation may be confused by references to asking an operator for a phone number and a fee for a long distance call from 1973's "Martha."
* TeenageDeathSongs: "Burma Shave".
* ThreeChordsAndTheTruth: He uses a collection of vintage equipment (including a calliope!), instruments salvaged from junkyards, and has recorded album tracks outside or in barns.
* VillainSong:
** "Just the Right Bullets" and "Flash Pan Hunter" from ''The Black Rider'' are from the Devil's POV.
** "Everything Goes to Hell" and "God's Away on Business" from his version of ''Woyzeck'' and its soundtrack album, ''Blood Money''
* WarIsHell: "Hell Broke Luce", which is pretty much a long [[ClusterFBomb profanity laced]] rant from an OldSoldier in Iraq. "[[PunctuatedForEmphasis WHAT.]] [[DespairEventHorizon IS.]] [[TemptingFate NEXT?!]]" Also, the much more somber "Day After Tomorrow."
** That title isn't a typo, "Hell Broke Luce" is about a real soldier that committed suicide - [[http://www.boston.com/yourlife/health/mental/articles/2005/03/01/jeff_lucey_returned_from_iraq_a_changed_man_then_he_killed_himself/?page=full Jeff Lucey]], who was DrivenToSuicide by posttraumatic stress and hanged himself in 2004.
* TheWindyCity: Appropriately titled song "Chicago".
* WordSaladLyrics: "The Piano Has Been Drinking." Justified in that the singer is schnockered out of his mind.

His works are also used as quotes on the following pages:
* BellyOfTheWhale
* BeneathTheEarth
* Quotes/GladiatorGames
* Quotes/{{Hellevator}}
* Quotes/InsaneProprietor
* RedemptionInTheRain
* SleptThroughTheApocalypse

His works feature in:
* ''Series/{{NCIS}}''- Ziva is singing a Tom Waits song at the beginning of the season six opener. Yes, that is actually Cote de Pablo singing.
* As mentioned above, as the opening song of ''Series/TheWire'', sung by a different person or group for each season (and by himself for season 2).
* Jordon sings "Innocent When You Dream" in an episode of ''Series/CrossingJordan''.
* The first ''Film/{{Hellboy}}'' movie - "Heartattack & Vine" is playing when we first meet the adult HB.
* ''Film/FightClub'' - When they first go into the bar basement, you can hear "Goin' Out West" playing.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Shrek}} 2'' - Cpt. Hook can be seen playing "Little Drop of Poison". Later on, Hook sings Nick Cave's "People Ain't No Good".
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Robots}}'' - "Underground" plays over a creepy factory scene.
* "Earth Died Screaming" is used in Creator/TerryGilliam's ''12 Monkeys'' to chilling effect.
* ''Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room'' featured "What's He Building?" at the beginning and "God's Away on Business" over the end credits.
* "Dead and Lovely" is used at the beginning of ''Wristcutters: A Love Story''
* "All the Word is Green" and "Green Grass" feature in ''TheDivingBellAndTheButterfly''.
* He collaborated with Crystal Gayle for the soundtrack of the musical OneFromTheHeart.
* He also composed and performed the score and two original songs for Creator/JimJarmusch's ''NightOnEarth''.
* ''HomicideLifeOnTheStreet'', the drug-themed, proto-''[[TheWire Wire]] episode "Bad Medicine" opens with "Til the Money Runs Out" and ends with "Cold Cold Ground."
* The book ''SandmanSlim'' has "Alice" as a song haunting the protagonist (whose murdered girlfriend was named Alice). At one point, his worst enemy makes a jukebox play it just to taunt him.
* The second episode of ''{{Bunheads}} has a ballet piece set to "Picture In A Frame".
* "Soldier's Things" plays during the last scene of ''Film/{{Jarhead}}''.
* In an episode of ''Series/TheWalkingDead'' Beth sings "Kold On" at the end.
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