Home » Explore Tom Waits’ Tribute Poem to Celebrate Keith Richards’ 80th Birthday: “A Toast to Keith’s Eight Decades”

Explore Tom Waits’ Tribute Poem to Celebrate Keith Richards’ 80th Birthday: “A Toast to Keith’s Eight Decades”

As Keith Richards marks his 80th birthday on December 18, Tom Waits, his close friend, pays a unique tribute in the form of a poem titled “Burnt Toast to Keith.” Scheduled for publication in the January 2024 issue of the U.K. magazine Uncut, the poem captures the essence of Richards’ songwriting and guitar prowess with irreverent and surreal flair.

The poem opens with a reflection on Richards and the origins of great songs, suggesting that they emerge from the metaphorical gutter. It whimsically describes the challenge of fishing in such a place, sitting on the curb, and humorously contemplates the unconventional bait needed, like a piece of red cloth or a candy wrapper. According to Waits, good songs willingly latch onto the hook, ensuring a lasting connection between the song and its audience.

Waits elaborates, stating, “Keith has this ability to clench his teeth and play chords using his upper lip. As the night winds down, his sound resonates like an orchestra tuning up.”

As the poem reaches its culmination, Waits expresses, “Keith, may you continue to spin, create ripples, make bold strokes, transform a mundane moment into something extraordinary—like turning a simple blue marble into a ’49 Mercury, sawing a girl in half, and making the elephant disappear…”

The 74-year-old singer and songwriter concludes his heartfelt tribute with a birthday wish: “Happy 80th Birthday, KEITH! Embrace it boldly, shake it awake. With love, T O M W.”

The Creative Fusion of Keith Richards and Tom Waits: A Collaboration Chronicle

Richards and Waits have joined forces on several occasions throughout their enduring friendship. Richards contributed his guitar prowess and vocals to specific tracks on three of Waits’ albums: “Rain Dogs” (1985), “Bone Machine” (1992), and “Bad as Me” (2011). Additionally, the duo collaborated on the co-written song “That Feel,” featured on Waits’ album “Bone Machine.”

New Issue of Uncut Magazine

Gracing the cover of Uncut’s January 2024 issue is none other than Richards himself. Inside, you’ll find captivating stories and heartfelt tributes not only from his Rolling Stones comrades, Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood but also from luminaries such as Jimmy Page, Johnny Marr, and a host of other influential figures.

Other Birthday Tributes to Richards

Meanwhile, several artists expressed their birthday wishes to Richards on social media. Sheryl Crow shared a heartfelt message, saying, “To my dear friend Keith Richards on your 80th… Wishing you the most extraordinary birthday in the entire universe!” She also noted the special occasion of Richards and his wife, Patti Hansen, celebrating their 40th anniversary, adding, “Love both of you!” Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash kept it simple with a direct message: “Happy Birthday #KeithRichards.”

Waits’ Full Poem

Here’s Tom Waits’ complete poem:

“Burnt Toast to Keith”

When I think about Keith, I’m reminded that the best songs come from the gutter… but it’s a hell of a place to fish when you have to sit on the curb. What do you use for bait? A piece of red cloth will do or a candy wrapper. Good songs jump right on your hook, and the hook is in the song for good… Keith can grit his teeth, and he can voice chords with his upper lip /// and when the night is winding down… Keith sounds like an orchestra tuning up… a blue schemer, in a wavy glass mirror, like partially melted chords left out in the sun too long… and if you listen to the chords that fall out of Keith’s coat…

it’s like Broadway out of focus… an electric powder blue fog bank with hundreds of tunes inside, crying… They are like fish just dying to get down in the pan and start frying. Feathers, fingernails, scabs, and scars /// some songs are written on the way to the studio in rented cars /// never confuse the amount of time it takes with the depth of the duende, eh? Keep the tape rolling. Keith thinks, I am sitting on a BIG EGG and it needs another minute or so before I can blow my top. Keith… long may you twirl, splash, curl, slash, take a blue marble and turn it into a ’49 Mercury, saw the girl in half, and make the elephant disappear… Happy Birthday KEITH, the big 80 is here, slap it in the face, and wake it up… Love, T O M W

Rolling Stones’ 2024 Tour

As mentioned earlier, Richards is set to embark on a significant North American tour with The Rolling Stones next year, in promotion of the band’s 2023 album, “Hackney Diamonds.” The tour commences on April 28 in Houston and extends through July 17 in Santa Clara, California. Secure your tickets for these dates now through various outlets, including StubHub.


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