A Short History of the Voice

Upon meeting with the music of Tom Waits, it is obvious that the first thing that captures your attention is his raspy voice. It seems as if Tom wanted it to sound this way and that he went to great length in order to have it. Only afterwards you hear the lyrics, only afterwards the music takes shape.

And the thing is that Tom Waits did want to have such a voice. As he said in one of his many interviews, as a kid he wanted to be an old man. And he did what he could in order to distort the reality.

Some even said that he genuinely fed himself with whisky and cigarettes just to achieve this kind of a resonance – of course, this is just a legend, because there is no way you wouldn’t smoke and drink as much as you can if you are an artist like him.

Other legends say that he, as a child, used to scream into pillows just to attain this kind of a voice. And, as he said, this is something that people do – not literally, but figuratively. In a way, I believe that he said an artist could bring harm upon himself in order to achieve something.

As a kid, Tom Waits grew among teachers and preachers – everyone in his family sang, but only as a hobby. Granted, none of them had any musical range, his father being an alcoholic that mixed Irish and Mexican tunes, his mother and his sisters sang lush harmonies, while his uncle sounded gravelly and full of gauze (although he had no musical ear).

It is obvious, as far as I am concerned, that these were the influences Tom Waits would carry in his entire career. It was an eclectic bunch of voices that gave birth to an incomparable style.

Of course, having the lifestyle of Tom Waits brings a toll on the voice he worked so hard to have. In an interview, Tom Waits said that he goes to doctor to get tuned once in a while, while before shows he barks much like a dog – with his mouth closed, he growls.

And, as anyone would suspect, these little tricks mean murder for his sound. But then again it does keep it alive. It does feed his legends.

Who knows if any of these things I have written are actually true?

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