TV | March 18, 2022 12:41 pm

Imagine a “Deadwood” Musical With Music by Tom Waits? It Almost Happened.

Sing a song of Swearengen? Sweet!

Tom Waits
Tom Waits performing live onstage at the Victoria Apollo, playing piano.
David Corio/Redferns

In early 2004, HBO debuted a high-profile television series in the timeslot just after the show that had solidified the channel’s reputation for original programming. Watching another great episode of The Sopranos immediately followed by the instant-classic Western Deadwood pretty much solidified TV’s “golden age.” Both shows have also had notable followups in the years since: Deadwood got a two-hour movie that tied up some loose ends from the series, while The Many Saints of Newark offered an expanded look at the history of several Sopranos characters.

There’s one big difference between the two shows, however — The Sopranos never had a high-profile Broadway adaptation. To be fair, Deadwood didn’t, either — but apparently, we were a lot closer to seeing one than anyone knew. Even more intriguing was the prospect of who might have written the music for it: none other than Tom Waits.

This nugget of information comes from culture writer Matt Zoller Seitz, who has covered Deadwood for pretty much as long as Deadwood has existed — and who has an expansive new book on the show due out later this year. It was while discussing the book on Twitter that Seitz revealed the musical version of Deadwood that almost was.

“[A]ccording to the family, at some point after the cancellation of the show, David Milch talked to Tom Waits about doing a musical version for broadway,” Seitz wrote.

Seitz later clarified that Milch talking with Waits was as much as he knew about the project. But one can only imagine what might have been — and, after all, it’s not like Waits hasn’t done work for the stage before. “Swearengen’s Wild Years,” anyone?