Before I knew anything about Tom Waits, I knew Dave was a massive fan. Waits has appeared on one or the other of Letterman’s shows ten times. It wasn’t until I saw Down By Law, Jim Jarmusch’s pulp fiction, jail break picture starring Waits, that I understood Dave’s fascination. From watching Jarmusch’s black-and-white, soupy bayou yarn about three escaped convicts, I could tell implicitly why Dave did everything he could for Tom. For Waits, like Dave, is this somewhat reclusive, creative, punkish American everyman, able to speak to the people of his time by needling together all that has come before, occasionally paying homage, but most of the time poking at it for effect. Here, I have compiled all-but-one of the ten known appearances available, with a sprinkling of notes on certain performances. Come for the music, stay for the interviews.
Tonight, Waits waves goodbye performing a new tune for Dave. According to his site, “I don’t know when I will see Dave again. I guess from now on we’ll have to settle for bumping into each other at pilates.”