Meaning of Martha – Tom Waits

“Martha” became the debut composition of Tom Waits, which was performed and recorded by another famous musician. It was then the already popular singer Tim Buckley. So, to some extent, it can be considered as the first recognition of the talent of a young performer by colleagues on the stage.

In 1972, when Tom composed the song, he was only twenty-three years old, but it is performed from the point of view of a much more mature person. The main character, an elderly man, calls his ex-lover. They broke up a long time ago and did not communicate for a long time, but he is still not indifferent to her.

The names Tom and Martha may be a reference to the song “From Above” by Ben Folds and Nick Hornby, as the names of the characters in their composition were the same. But we note right away that neither plagiarism, nor even any borrowings in this case can be considered.

The author gives the listeners the opportunity to think for themselves what will happen next. It is not clear from the text whether Marta answered Tom, whether she would be glad to see him and whether she would like to meet him.

“Martha” is the last track on the “A” side of Waits’ debut album Closing Time, released in April 1973. It was not released as a single.

In the same year, Tim Buckley recorded a cover version of “Martha” and included it on the “Sefronia” record. Later, the composition was performed by Bette Midler, Meat Loaf and other musicians.

Interesting Facts

  • Analyzing the lyrics of Adele’s song “Hello”, many critics find in it a lot in common with the work of Tom Waits.

Martha lyricsMartha lyricsOperator, number, please: it’s been so many years
Will she remember my old voice while I fight the tears?
Hello, hello there, is this Martha? this is old Tom Frost,
And I am calling long distance, don’t worry ’bout the cost.
‘Cause it’s been forty years or more, now Martha please recall,
Meet me out for coffee, where we’ll talk about it all. Operator please, number: it’s been so many years
Will she recognize my old voice as I fight back tears
Hello, hello, is this Martha? It’s old Tom Frost
And I’m calling from far away, but don’t worry about the cost
After all, forty years have passed, please remember, Martha,
Let’s have a coffee somewhere and talk about everythingChorus:
And those were the days of roses, poetry and prose
And Martha all I had was you and all you had was me.
There was no tomorrows, we’d packed away our sorrows
And we saved them for a rainy day.
Those were the days of roses, poetry and prose,
I only had you, Martha, and you only had me
Tomorrow did not exist, all sorrows were removed away
And left them for a rainy day
How’s your husband? and how’s the kids? you know that I got married too?
Luck that you found someone to make you feel secure,
‘Cause we were all so young and foolish, now we are mature
How is your husband? As children? Do you know that I’m married too?
It’s good that you found a reliable person,
‘Cause we were so young and stupid and now we’re mature Chorus And I was always so impulsive, I guess that I still am
And all that really mattered then was that I was a man.
I guess that our being together was never meant to be.
And Martha, Martha, I love you can’t you see?
And then the only thing that really mattered was that I was a man.
Guess we were never meant to be together
And Martha, Martha, don’t you understand that I love you? Chorus And I remember quiet evenings trembling close to you…

Add a comment