A first-time nominee, the singer/songwriter first played in the R&B group the System in the sixties, making the rounds on the San Diego music scene.
His 1973 debut album, Closing Time, wasn’t a success until other well-known artists covered his songs, including the Eagles and Bruce Springsteen. Waits’ music mixed jazz, blues, rock, folk and country, creating a distinct sound uniquely his. Experimenting with instrumentation and utilizing heavy orchestral sounds, Waits also dabbled in spoken word, mostly heard at his live shows.
Waits is perhaps best known of the album The Heart of Saturday Night, which features the songs "New Coat of Paint," "Diamonds on My Windshield," "(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night" and, of course, "San Diego Serenade."
The musician has also made multiple forays into the world of film, with memorable turns in The Fisher King, Short Cuts and, more recently, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and The Book of Eli.
Also to be inducted later this year: Hit machine Neil Diamond and Dr. John, the New Orleans jazz, zydeco and boogie-woogie music artist. Alice Cooper, the band, will be honored for their contributions to shock-rock. Pop artist Darlene Love, Art Rupe and Jac Holzman round out the inductees.
Pianist Leon Russell will be the first recipient of the Award for Musical Excellence (formerly the Sideman Award), which recognizes his songwriting and piano-playing talent. Russell collaborated with Elton John on the album The Union and the track “If It Wasn’t for Bad” is nominated for a 2011 Grammy Award. Russell will perform Thursday at 4th & B.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony will be held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York on March 14 and streamed live on Fuse.com.