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Tom Waits is taking on a French circus in totally wacky, upbeat legal battle

(Photo: Getty Images, Paul Marotta)

You wouldn’t normally expect to hear Tom Waits’ music associated with a typical American circus—what with all of the clowns, laughs, and general merriment—but combining Waits’ music with a French circus actually seems like a perfect match. Perhaps that’s why French circus star Bartabas decided to do just that for his latest show, an equestrian opera called On Achève Bien Les Anges that prominently features 16 of Waits’ songs. However, it seems as if Bartabas didn’t actually get Waits’ permission beforehand, and now the musician is taking the circus performer to court.

This comes from The Guardian (via Pitchfork), which notes that this is actually Waits’ second attempt to shut down the show. His initial bid to stop production in France was rejected by the courts, and now he’s trying to prevent it from touring in the United Kingdom. Waits says that his songs are “the narrative heart and soul” of the show, and his refusal to accept “commercial product endorsement offers” has been “taken and exploited for the profit and promotion of Bartabas’ career and his religious and political ideology.” Finally, he notes that this show “violates the integrity of [his] work.”


Meanwhile, Bartabas claims that he tried to contact Waits so he could get permission to use the songs and that he did pay both Waits and his co-writer/wife Kathleen Brennan for the rights. Assuming that’s true, it’s still not enough for Waits.

You can see a preview video for the circus show below.

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