5 Songs You Didn’t Know Tom Waits Wrote for Other Artists

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Thomas Alan Waits is credited with writing hundreds of songs throughout a career spanning more than 50 years.

He mostly co-wrote songs with his wife Kathleen Brennan—the two married in 1980—beginning with one song off Waits’ 1985 album, Rain Dog, and the remainder of his 17 albums as his main co-writer. The couple also collaborated on the 1990 Robert Wilson production of The Black Rider: The Casting of the Magic Bullets, which was conceived by Wilson, Waits, and William S. Burroughs and then again for Waits’ 14th Alice in 2002, which was loosely based on Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired Lewis Carroll’s 1865 classic Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland.

Across his 17 albums, film and stage compositions, and sundry collaborations, Waits’ songwriting contributions also reached everyone from Johnny Cash and Rickie Lee Jones, to Marianne Faithfull, and more.

Here are five songs Tom Waits wrote for other artists.

1. “Is There Any Way Out of This Dream?” Crystal Gayle (1982)
Written by Tom Waits

Tom Waits composed the soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1982 romantic drama One From The Heart, starring Teri Garr and the late Harry Dean Stanton, which included five songs performed by Crystal Gayle and Waits: “Old Boyfriends,” “Take Me Home,” “This One’s From the Heart,” “Picking Up After You,” and “Is There Any Way Out of This Dream?”

I can clearly see nothing is clear
I keep falling apart every year
Lets take a hammer to it
There’s no glamour in it
Is there any way out of this dream

I’m as blue as I can possibly be
Is there someone else out there for me
Summer is dragging its feet
I feel so incomplete
Is there any way out of this dream

2. “Rainbow Sleeves,” Rickie Lee Jones (1983)
Written by Tom Waits

Rickie Lee Jones’ 1983 EP and third release, Girl at Her Volcano, featured several live performances, a cover of The Drifters’ 1964 classic “Under the Boardwalk,” some leftover studio tracks, and a song written by her former boyfriend, Waits, called “Rainbow Sleeves.”

You used to dream yourself away each night
To places that you’d never been
On wings made of wishes
That you whispered to y
ourself

Back when every night the moon and you
Would sweep away to places
That you knew
Where you would never get the blues

3. “Strange Weather,” Marianne Faithfull (1987)
Written by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan

When Marianne Faithfull began working on her album Strange Weather, it was the first time she was recording new music after kicking a 17-year addiction to heroin. The title track was written by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan after many conversations with Faithfull about the toll the previous years took on her. Prior to recording, Faithfull went into rehab following a fall down the stairs, while under the influence, which broke her jaw. The songs of Strange Weather document some of the most turbulent times in her life.

Will you take me across the channel
London Bridge is falling down
Strange, a woman tries to save
What a man will try to drown

And he’s the rain that they predicted
It’s the forecast every time
The rose has died because you picked it
I believe that brandy’s mine

The word is getting flatter
The sky is falling all around
And nothing is the matter
For I never cry in town

And a love like ours, my dear
Is best measured when it’s down
And I never buy umbrellas
For there’s always one around

4. “Down There by the Train,” Johnny Cash (1994)
Written by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan

Under the guidance of producer Rick Rubin, Johnny Cash’s 81st album, American Recordings, featured a collection of songs written by an eclectic blend of artists—everyone from Glen Danzig to Cash’s former stepson-in-law Nick Lowe, along with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s 1969 song “Bird on a Wire” and Kris Kristofferson’s 1972 gospel-country song “Why Me.” Tom Waits was also enlisted as a contributor and wrote a gospel-tinted song about redemption for Cash called “Down There by the Train.”

There’s a golden moon that shines up through the mist 
And I know that your name can be on that list 
There’s no eye for an eye, there’s no tooth for a tooth 
I saw Judas Iscariot carrying John Wilkes Booth 
He was down there by the train 

5. “It Rains On Me,” Chuck E. Weiss with Tom Waits (1999)
Written by Tom Waits and Chuck E. Weiss

Tom Waits and Chuck E. Weiss met in 1972 and remained friends and collaborators ever since, beginning their musical collaboration on the track “Spare Parts,” recorded on Waits’ 1975 album Nighthawks at the Diner. Though Waits later recorded “It Rains on Me” for Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards in 2006, he first handed it over to Weiss for the late blues, Americana, and beat poet singer’s second album, Extremely Cool, released in 1999. A follow-up to Weiss’ 1981 debut The Other Side of Town, Extremely Cool was also co-produced by Waits, who also appears on two tracks, including “It Rains On Me.”

This is how the world will be
Everywhere I go it rains on me
Forty monkeys drowning in a boiling sea
Everywhere I go it rains on me
I went down into the valley to pray
Everywhere I go it rains on me
I got drunk and I stayed all day
Everywhere I go it rains on me
Everywhere I go, everywhere I go
Everywhere I go, it rains on me
All God’s chilluns can’t you see
Everywhere I go it rains on me
Louie Lista and Marchese
Everywhere I go it rains on me

Waits also wrote songs inspired by his late friend, including “I Wish I Was In New Orleans Again” and “Jitterbug Boy.” Weiss died on July 20, 2021, from cancer at the age of 76.

Photo: Jean-Baptiste Mondino / ANTI- Records

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