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Tom Waits files lawsuit against soundalike

General Motors accused of using a Tom Waits-style singer in its ads
/ Source: The Associated Press

Singer-songwriter Tom 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.

The 55-year-old singer, whose distinct, gravelly voice has won him two Grammy Awards, filed the civil lawsuit this week with a state court in Frankfurt, listing Adam Opel AG and the advertising firm McCann Erickson as the defendants.

Andreas Schumacher, Waits’ German lawyer, said the singer was approached numerous times about doing the ads last year, but declined, citing a policy of not doing commercials. He said the firm then hired a soundalike and the ads aired earlier this year in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway.

“We have sent copies of the lawsuit to McCann Erickson and Opel,” Schumacher said.

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

“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.”

Ralf Specht, the manager of McCann Erickson in Frankfurt, said the agency spoke with Waits in May and had changed the music in the ad campaign. He said the company had not gotten a copy of the lawsuit yet. An Opel spokesman said he couldn’t comment because the company had not received a copy of the lawsuit.

Waits’ albums include the Grammy-winning “Bone Machine” and “Mule Variations.”

As an actor, he has appeared in “The Outsiders,” “The Fisher King” and “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.”