Today in Music History: Happy Birthday, Tom Waits

Tom Waits
Tom Waits (Jesse Dylan, via NPR)

History Highlight:

Tom Waits is 68 today. Known for his his trademark growl, his albums have received mixed commercial success. His biggest success may have been through cover versions by more commercial artists: "Jersey Girl" performed by Bruce Springsteen, "Ol' '55" by the Eagles, "Downtown Train" by Rod Stewart. In 2011, Waits was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is also included among the 2010 list of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Singers, as well as the 2015 list of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time.

Also, in:

1963 - The Beatles second album With The Beatles started a 21-week run at No. 1 on the U.K. album chart.

1967 - Otis Redding went into the studio to record "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay". Though the song skyrocketed to the top of the R&B and pop charts in the months after its release, Redding didn't get to enjoy its success as he died in a plane crash three days after recording the song. The hit was Otis's largest-selling to date and it's reported that the familiar whistling heard before the song's fade was the singer fooling around, as he had forgotten what he was going to do during that part. The immensely popular song has been covered by dozens of performers such as Cher, Bob Dylan, Widespread Panic, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Pearl Jam, Garth Brooks and Justin Timberlake.

1974 - Carl Douglas started a two-week run at No. 1 on the U.S. singles chart with "Kung Fu Fighting". The song was recorded in 10 minutes (with just two takes), and had started out as a B-side but went on to sell 11 million records worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time.

1985 - Mr. Mister started a two-
week run at No. 1 on the U.S. singles chart with "Broken Wings".

1991 - George Michael and Elton John were at No. 1 in the U.K. with a live version of "Don't Let The Sun Go down On Me". All proceeds from the hit went to aids charities.

1991 - Michael Jackson started a 7-week run at No. 1 on the U.S. singles chart with "Black Or White", his 12th solo No. 1, also a No. 1 in the U.K.

1991 - U2 went to No. 1 on the U.S. album charts with Achtung Baby.

1996 - Toni Braxton started an 11-week run at No. 1 on the U.S. singles chart with "Un-Break My Heart".

2003 - Britney Spears was at No. 1 on the U.S. album chart with In The Zone, the singer's fourth U.S. No. 1 album. The singer broke her own record from being the first female artist to have three albums enter the U.S. chart at No. 1 to being the first female artist to have 4 albums enter at No. 1 consecutively.

2005 - The MBE medal that John Lennon returned to the Queen was found in a royal vault at St James' Palace. Lennon returned his medal in November, 1969 with a letter accompanying saying, "Your Majesty, I am returning my MBE as a protest against Britain's involvement in the Nigeria-Biafra thing, against our support of America in Vietnam and against Cold Turkey slipping down the charts. With Love, John Lennon."

2014 - Pink Floyd's classic album The Dark Side Of The Moon made a surprise return to the Billboard chart when it landed at No. 13 thanks to ultra-cheap pricing in the Google Play store where the album was discounted to 99 cents. Although it held the No. 1 spot in the U.S. for only a week when released in 1973, it remained in the Billboard album chart for 741 weeks.

2015 - David Bowie made his last public appearance when he attended the opening night of the Lazarus production at the New York Theatre Workshop in Manhattan. Tickets to the entire run of the musical sold out within hours of being made available.

2016 - Greg Lake, who fronted both King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, died at age 69 after a battle with cancer.


Harry Chapin ("Cats in the Cradle") was born today in 1942.

Psychedelic Furs bass player Tim Butler is 59.

Damien Rice is 44.

All Saints singer Nicole Appleton is 43.

Singer Aaron Carter is 30.

Highlights for Today in Music History are gathered from This Day in Music, Paul Shaffer's Day in Rock, Song Facts and Wikipedia.

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