I've promised to share some of my favourite Tom Waits covers for ages. One of the reasons it's taken so long is that I realised I had quite a lot to say about them, so instead of writing about a selection of songs in one post I've decided it will be more productive to take it one at a time. So, for starters, here's Solomon Burke, the King of Rock & Soul, and his version of Diamond in Your Mind from his brilliant comeback album Don't Give Up On Me.
As far as I know there's no studio recording by Waits of this song although I'm sure I once heard a demo on KCRW. The song was originally written for the Waits/Robert Wilson production of Woyzeck but there are more lyrics in Burke's version than there are in the play. Solomon Burke – the "Wonder Boy Preacher" - also objected to the original line, "Zerelda Samuels said she ain't never prayed". He outlines why in this extract from a 2002 interview:
That song was written by Tom Waits. Have you met him? Solomon Burke: "No. We had one discussion on the phone, and that was the lyric change where he wrote that "she never prayed," and I said, "No, no, no - you have to call him, you have to get him on the phone." I don't care how big of a sinner you are: If someone cuts off your arm, you are going to pray to God. They said, "With all due respect, Dr Burke, you do not change the words to a Tom Waits song." I told them, "With all due respect, as a man of God, I am telling you this song is religiously incorrect." We stopped the whole session until we got a call back from him, and he said, "Okay."
(Source: "Solomon Burke Brings It Home" by Jonathan Valania. Philadelpia Weekly. July 17, 2002 Volume XXXI, No. 29, © 2003 Review Publishing – found at the superb Tom Waits Library)
I’ve just finished David Smay’s 33 1/3 book on Swordfishtrombones – probably the most illuminating book I've read about Tom Waits' work. In it he explains that "diamond mind" is a Buddhist state of enlightenment. It's no surprise then that the only version of the song performed by Waits that is available commercially is on the concert album Healing the Divide, a fundraiser for Tibetan monks.
If you'd like play compare and contrast on the two versions, leave a comment below.
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