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Tom Waits: 'We Are Monkeys With Money and Guns'



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It might be hard to believe, but Tom Waits — the iconic American troubadour with the gravelly voice — will be 70 years old on Saturday.
For fans of Waits, what better way to celebrate the milestone than by reading this 2008 interview published by NPR while listening to his classic 1985 “Rain Dogs” album?

Waits on Waits

It’s not just any interview. It’s Waits interviewing himself for a press release from his record label.
Waits talks about the musicians who most influenced him, his record collection, and much more.
He comes across as funny, ironic, and prescient.
“What’s wrong with the world?” Waits asks.
Answer: “We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. Leona Helmsley’s dog made $12 million last year… and Dean McLaine, a farmer in Ohio, made $30,000. It’s just a gigantic version of the madness that grows in every one of our brains. We are monkeys with money and guns.”

Words to Live By

My favorite Waits’ answer: “(Filmmaker) Jim Jarmusch once told me, ‘Fast, cheap, and good… pick two. If it’s fast and cheap, it won’t be good. If it’s cheap and good, it won’t be fast. If it’s fast and good, it won’t be cheap.’ ”

Read the Interview

You can read “Tom Waits’ True Confessions” at this link.

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email