Lowside of the Road (Hardcover)

A Life of Tom Waits

By Barney Hoskyns

Crown Archetype, 9780767927086, 640pp.

Publication Date: May 19, 2009

List Price: 29.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


With his trademark growl, carnival-madman persona, haunting music, and unforgettable lyrics, Tom Waits is one of the most revered and critically acclaimed singer-songwriters alive today. After beginning his career on the margins of the 1970s Los Angeles rock scene, Waits has spent the last thirty years carving out a place for himself among such greats as Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Like them, he is a chameleonic survivor who has achieved long-term success while retaining cult credibility and outsider mystique. But although his songs can seem deeply personal and somewhat autobiographical, fans still know very little about the man himself. Notoriously private, Waits has consistently and deliberately blurred the line between fact and fiction, public and private personas, until it has become impossible to delineate between truth and self-fabricated legend.

Lowside of the Road is the first serious biography to cut through the myths and make sense of the life and career of this beloved icon. Barney Hoskyns has gained unprecedented access to Waits’s inner circle and also draws on interviews he has done with Waits over the years. Spanning his extraordinary forty-year career from Closing Time to Orphans, from his perilous “jazzbo” years in 1970s LA to such shape-shifting albums as Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs to the Grammy Award winners of recent years, this definitive biography charts Waits’s life and art step by step, album by album.

Barney Hoskyns has written a rock biography—much like the subject himself—unlike any other. It is a unique take on one of rock’s great enigmas.

About the Author

Barney Hoskyns is cofounder and editorial director of the online rock-journalism library Rock's Backpages (www.rocksbackpages.com), and author of several books including "Across the Great Divide: The Band and America "(1993), "Hotel California: Singer-Songwriters and Cocaine Cowboys in the LA Canyons "(2005), and the newly reissued "Waiting for the Sun: A Rock and Roll History of Los Angeles." A former U.S. correspondent for "Mojo," Hoskyns writes for "Uncut," the" Observer Music Monthly," and other U.K. publications, and has contributed to "Vogue," " Rolling Stone," and "GQ." He lives in southwest London.

Praise For Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits

Absolutely outstanding" --Danny Baker, BBC

"[This] book lights up and whirls like one of the greasy carnival rides in Mr. Wait's own sprawling oeuvre" --The New York Times

Hoskyn's superlative overview of one of America's major (though idiosyncratic) popular artists will likely stand as the best book on his life"--Library Journal (starred review)

"Hoskyns persevered in writing the first Waits biography, netting fascination firsthand stories, terrific photographs, and fanatically detailed information about studio sessions and concerts...the result is a respectful, entertaining, and revelatory portrait set within a vivid cultural context."--Booklist

"It's about time [Waits] received biographical homage from a rock writer of the stature of Hoskyns."--Stephen Poole, The Guardian

"Comprehensive and judicious. [Waits] could not have found a more respectful, sympathetic and knowledgeable biographer if he'd chosen him himself."--Mick Brown, The Word

"Thanks to his diligence.  His Californian connections and some magazine interviews he conducted long ago with Waits, Hoskyn's life comes across as convincingly lifelike."--Robert Sandall, The Sunday Times