Tom Waits in Court over Sound Alike

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Tom Waits doesn't want his voice used to sell cars in ads for General Motors in the Netherlands. GM and a German ad agency approached Waits and asked nicely, but Waits, citing a "no commercials" policy, politely refused. So, what does the ad agency do? Find someone who sounds exactly like Waits and make the ads anyway! Sneaky!

According to the Associated Press, Waits said Thursday he has filed a lawsuit against a unit of automaker General Motors Corp. and a German advertising agency for allegedly using a soundalike in a series of European ads.

Waits is seeking damages and any profits derived from the ads for "violating his personality rights."

"Apparently the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad — ideally naked and purring on the hood of a new car. I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor," Waits said in a statement. "While the court can't make me active in radio, I am asking it to make me radioactive to advertisers."

I have to say that I hope Waits wins a bucket load of money on this one, or at least a strong cease-and-desist. I know it's supposed to be part of my Po-Co, Po-Mo ironic malaise to simply accept the co-opting of all the icons of my youth (toys, culture, places, clothes, music) in an attempt to re-package and sell me a romanticized version of that same youth (a fictional reality at best), and whatever other crap the ad agencies are peddling, but when someone adamantly refuses to be a big, fat sell out (can you say Led Zeppelin and those damn Cadillac ads?), then I support that. I'm also wondering if GM really thinks that anyone is stupid enough to actually think that just because a car commercial features Waits, the car is automatically "cool." Although the Grammy-winning The Black Rider (1993) - songs and music from the award winning avant-garde opera based on the German folk tale that was adapted by Beat novelist William Burroughs for director Robert Wilson - was one of Germany's longest running and most influential shows of the 80s, will this automatically translate into car sales?

I've got some news for GM: you can buy a lot of ice, baby, but you can't buy cool.

This blog inspired by an Associated Press article by Matt Moore.

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