Tom Waits objects to song use in Festival show

Tom Waits has opposed the use of his song in a show.
Tom Waits has opposed the use of his song in a show.
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A LAVISH French “equestrian operatic ballet” due to be staged during the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival could be blocked due to a legal challenge from the American singer-songwriter Tom Waits.

The veteran rock musician wants to halt a show by an avant-garde Parisian theatre company which uses 30 live horses and 16 of his songs in its latest show.

Waits claims he would never have allowed his material to be used for the production, insisting that it “violates the integrity of my work” and that his songs are being “exploited”.

But its founder, circus performer Bartabas the Furious, has denied any wrongdoing, is adamant that official permission was sought through Waits’ agent and has claimed that ¤400,000 was paid for the rights to the show.

Waits, 66, failed in an initial bid to stop the production – Acheve Bien Le Anges (They Shoot Angels, Don’t They?) – going ahead in Paris last month. And he has lodged a second claim for ¤500,000 for using his songs without permission.

The legal challenge could thwart plans to transfer it to Scotland in August, when both the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe will mark their 70th birthdays.

The French company, Theatre Equestre Zingaro, took a smaller-scale production to London’s Sadler’s Wells venue last spring.

In a lengthy statement setting out his opposition to the outfit’s new show, currently running in Paris, Waits said: “These songs were not found like driftwood on the beach: they come from good families.

“The songs have value, my name and image have value, my voice has value. The value is cultural, artistic and personal, as well as economic. Often, things that are rare (or even medium rare) are more valuable.

“I turn down all commercial product endorsement offers and rarely collaborate or lend my name or work to other endeavours. It is my choice to get paid or not to get paid.

“And that value has been taken and exploited for the profit and promotion of Bartabas’s career and for his religious and political ideaology, which neither the songs nor I chose to express. In short, it violates the integrity of my work.

“What I say yes to and what I say no to creates the shape of how I am perceived.

“What I mean to my audience cannot be made separate from the music. It is absorbed into songs and together they go into the ear of the listener.

However Bartabas said: “It is clear I would not have created this show in the same way if he had said he did not agree with the use of the songs.”

The career of Waits spans five decades, during which time he has released 16 studio albums, three live recordings and seven compilations.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, the year after Rolling Stone listed him as one of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.

His last show in Scotland was staged in Edinburgh in 2008 at the 3000-capacity Playhouse – more than 20 years since his previous gig in the city at the same venue.