Monday, November 8, 2010

Tom Waits Appreciation: Conclusion


Having read all these Waits album primers, the looming question is this: Why should anyone need primers to enjoy something? Isn't taste subjective, the result of some visceral appeal that varies from person to person? Can't someone just not like Tom Waits?

The answer of course, is yes. My goal in writing this feature was not to achieve a 100% conversion rate among readers. It's to stave off a greater fear: that potential fans might write Tom off because of his superficial idiosyncracies, without actually delving into his catalog a bit. Perhaps I'm sensitive to it because I went through the process. I started out reluctant, skeptical, hesitant--unwilling to believe that there was much of anything to this demon-throated weirdo. He was just catnip for critics, intentionally weird in an attempt to draw attention to himself.

But I put faith in the Waits fans I knew. I abandoned my prejudice and realized that maybe there is a reason most credible artists list him as an influence. Maybe there's a reason most of his albums are championed by both critics and musical intellects alike. Like many, I started with the approachable stuff and moved on from there. Giving Tom a chance has proved beneficial for more reasons than just the dozen or so albums of his that I'm crazy about, or even the unmathced live experience I'll brag about til the day I die. Being a Waits lover has made me an all-around better music fan. It's made me a more discriminating listener, and has both widened my scope and refined my tastes. After learning to love Tom, you truly feel like you're ready for anything.

So, again, my goal isn't to prove objecitvely that everyone should love Tom Waits and you're wrong if you don't. My whole point here, I guess, is to give the uninitiated music fan some context. I want it to be a call to action fans who say, "Yeah, I've heard of him, but I don't know anything about him." Read the primer, go with what sounds promising, and enjoy the journey. Even if you never become as big a fan as I am, you can at least take solace in the fact that you're listening to one of the most passionate, fearless musicians of our time. No musician, to my knowledge, is as fiercely respected by his fans and peers as Tom Waits. Here's to hoping you join that camp.

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Here are the links to the other entries in this series:

1 comment:

Kathy said...

It might be a far stretch, it might not but have you given Daniel Lanois' group, Black Dub, a spin yet? Trixie Whitley lends her vocals and it is amazing. Check out the NPR tiny desk concert; http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=131075032