Revisit Tom Waits’ epic poem in tribute to Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards
Tom Waits and Keith Richards are two God’s among men, two creatives who have played together intermittently over a number of decades and have built up their relationship which has been fundamentally based on mutual respect—one that has seen the duo repeatedly create magic together for years.
As a way of showing his gratitude to Richards in celebration of The Rolling Stones guitarist releasing his first solo album in twenty years, a time in 2015 when the guitarist shared Crosseyed Heart, his close friend Tom Waits marked the occasion with a tribute to his longtime friend and collaborator with a beautifully written poem.
The duo first worked together when Richards played on a trio of songs which appeared on Waits’ groundbreaking 1985 album, Rain Dogs. On top of that, the pair collaborated again back in 1992 when they co-wrote the song ‘That Feel’ which was featured on Waits’ album Bone Machine.
Their professional and personal friendship was summed up by guitarist Richards when he described Waits as “a one-off lovely guy and one of the most original writers” in his now-iconic 2010 autobiography, Life. Later on in the book, Waits repays the compliment by saying his buddy is “like a frying pan made from one piece of metal. He can heat it up really high and it won’t crack, it just changes colour”.
Although Waits adores working alongside Richards, there are some drawbacks from teaming up with the Stones legend even if he did caveat this with “there’s nobody in the world like him”. Speaking to NPR’s Fresh Air in 2011, Waits said: “We wrote songs together for a while and that was fun [but] he doesn’t really remember anything or write anything down. So you play for an hour and he would yell across the room, ‘Scribe!’ And I looked around. ‘Scribe? Who’s the scribe?’ And he’d say it again, now pointing at me.”
Adding: “I was supposed to have written down everything we said and dreamt of and played,” continues Waits. “And I realised we needed an adult in the room. I’ve never been the one that one would consider the adult. It was an interesting dynamic.”
Waits opened his heartfelt 2015 tribute to Richards by writing: “He can run faster than a fax machine / His urine is blue“ and concludes with“Keith once took my 10,000 dollar overcoat / To put down across a mud puddle / To allow an octogenarian laundress / Named Clementine Moorehouse to cross the street / Comfortably / That’s Keith always the gentleman.”