Perhaps I’m an outlier, but I’ve always considered Tom Waits to be one of the most romantic songwriters in the world. He tells beautiful stories and carries a depth of emotional weight in his voice. So while it’s hard to pick just 14 songs, here’s a sampling from across his career:
[Listen along: 14 Romantic Tom Waits’ Songs]
“Martha” from Closing Time
The flame of love still burns strong after 40 years apart.
“San Diego Serenade” from The Heart of Saturday Night
Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
“Nobody” from Nighthawks at the Diner
Tom’s promise of devotion and attention.
“I Can’t Wait to Get Off Work” from Small Change
The only thing getting Tom through his crappy job is the promise of seeing his baby.
“Muriel” from Foreign Affairs
A broken hearted lament for lost love.
“Kentucky Avenue” from Blue Valentine
The story is absurdly confusing but hopelessly romantic, a fantasy of someone running away with their crippled lover.
“Jersey Girl” from Heartattack and Vine
The most romantic use of “sha la las” in the history of music, popularized by the world’s most famous Jersey boy.
“Johnsburg, Illinois” from Swordfishtrombones
The picture in his wallet might just be the only thing keeping this soldier alive.
“Downtown Train” from Raindogs
In Waitsworld trains represents dreams and love, going in both directions.
“The Briar and the Rose” from The Black Rider
Tom’s lovely ode to his wife, declaring that he was “born in Brennan’s Glen”.
“Picture in a Frame” from Mule Variations
I get goosebumps when he takes his voice up in the chorus and promises to love her until the wheels come off.
“I’m Still Here” from Alice
Devotion in the face of neglect.
“Day After Tomorrow” from Real Gone
Anti-war and pro-love.
“Back in the Crowd” from Bad As Me
True love means never settling.
What are your favorite Waits weepers?
Happy Valentine’s Day!