Monday, June 15, 2009

Biography: Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits by Barney Hoskyns

Appearances can be deceiving. For example, it is easy to look at Lowside of the Road (Broadway), veteran music writer Barney Hoskyns’ biography of music icon Tom Waits, and be impressed by the apparent breadth and depth of the work: it’s a big, fat book. However, once you delve in deeply, it becomes obvious that Hoskyns is stretching some very excellent material mighty thin. And that’s a shame because, while Hoskyns clearly has both the talent and the passion to write the definitive biography on this subject, Lowside of the Road isn’t it. And why? Because not only did Waits himself not cooperate, he instructed everyone he knew not to, as well.

Even so, Hoskyns does a credible job with what he does have: some really excellent interviews with both Waits and some of the people close to him, done, however, before work began on this biography. Hoskyns uses these along with some good old-fashioned footwork plus the view from his own not inconsiderable experience in the music industry to craft a very informative and informed view of the notoriously private Waits.

Does Lowside of the Road lack some of the depth a sanctioned biography would have had? I think so. But, in the end, this is currently as good as it gets. Want something closer to the artist himself? For that you’ll just have to wait.

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