Digging for "Way Down in the Hole"

I’ve got the last two discs of season two of The Wire out now. One good thing abut a low-rated show is that I don’t seem to be fighting anyone else at the video store for it — it’s always been in stock. Turns out they’re not getting season three for another few weeks, and who knows when season four will be available, and the fifth and final hasn’t even started airing yet, so I guess I’ll have some waiting to do soon enough.

But in the meantime, I’ve got another Wire-related project: tracking down the theme song in all its incarnations. It’s always the same song, “Way Down in the Hole,” written by Tom Waits, but always a different version.

The first season, it’s covered by The Blind Boys of Alabama, and immediately on hearing it, I had to get the bluesy tune from iTunes. Second season, it’s Tom Waits himself, and it took me a few episodes to realize I wouldn’t be satisfied until I got that version, too. It appears I have The Neville Brothers and a Baltimore Boys Choir to look forward to, and there’s rumours that season five’s version will be by Steve Earle.

Check out snippets of the first four below (closing theme is “The Fall” by The Wire‘s music supervisor Blake Leyh).

Season One – Blind Boys of Alabama

Season Two – Tom Waits

Season Three – The Neville Brothers

Season Four – DoMaJe

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6 Responses to Digging for "Way Down in the Hole"

  1. wcdixon says:

    Coolio…though Waits version still rules.

  2. Diane Kristine says:

    I’m more partial to the Blind Boys, but the Waits version definitely grew on me in a hurry. I know this (among many other things) makes me totally uncool, but his voice tends to grate on me – small doses are all I can handle. Brilliant songwriter, though.

  3. Corien says:

    Wow, really great to hear all versions!
    I’m much more a bluesy gal than a jazzy gal (and not so much a “whatever is on top of the charts these days”), which is why I too like the Blind Boys of Alabama’s version best.
    One particular version of “I shall not walk alone” that I think aired in an episode of Lost by them is really good too (this coming from an atheist ;)).. I’ve got a different, live, version on my iPod but it’s a bit less good.
    As for Waits: I love his slower piano songs. Grapefruit Moon, Tom Traubert’s Blues (= Waltzing Mathilda), Ruby’s arms …

  4. Corien says:

    Oh, here’s a YouTube link for I shall not walk alone

    (I’m downloading and converting to mp3 πŸ™‚ )

  5. Diane Kristine says:

    Thanks, that is great! (and coming from a fellow athiest) Makes me wonder why I don’t have more of them in my iTunes. I think I see a future project …

  6. Corien says:

    O-oh… now I’m costing you money πŸ˜‰

    “Will to live” and “Live at the Apollo” by Ben Harper ( featuring the BBof A ) are both not the same version as the YouTube one.
    Maybe the “Higher ground” one is right one?

    It’s so much fun coming across music/artists online and discovering new songs!!

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