Tom Waits on the warpath

He reckons a car company faked his voice, and he's not happy

Tom Waits is suing a car manufacturer and its advertising agency over an alleged counterfeit version of his voice.

The gravel-voiced singer-songwriter has filed a lawsuit against General Motors’ Opel and McCann Erickson in Frankfurt for producing and broadcasting a series of car adverts which, he claims, use a perfect impersonation of Waits’ singing voice.

The suit claims that the two companies approached Waits several times, and that when they were told about his long-standing policy of not taking part in adverts, hired a soundalike to imitate him. Produced in Germany, the ads have aired in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway.

The defendants are charged with violating Waits’ personality rights under German law. A similar suit was recently successful in Germany over Marlene Dietrich ’s personality rights.

In April, Waits released the following statement: “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 honour. Currently accepting, in my absence, is my German doppelganger. While the court can’t make me active in radio, I am asking it to make me radioactive to advertisers.”