I suppose if I had to pick one musical artist to call my favorite, Tom Waits would be it. (Last.fm bears me out, too.) As I remember my childhood, our house was always filled with the music of people like Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, and Townes Van Zandt. These artists are still at the top of my list, but I always remember the similarly frequent times when the Tom Waits records were out. His voice always gave me pause. It was so different, I'd stop and think "What IS this? Why is it so different from everything else? And why do I like it so much?"
And that really is the best part about Tom Waits. He makes you think a bit. He tells wonderful stories in his songs. They may be comical, maudlin, tragic or surreal, but they are all wonderful.
Happy birthday, Tom. May you have many more. Thanks for everything so far.
(And thanks to my favorite homebrewer, David, for pointing out the date this morning.)