Waits was born and raised in a middle-class family in California. Inspired by the work of Bob Dylan and the Beat Generation, as a teenager he began singing on the San Diego folk music scene. Relocating to Los Angeles in 1972, he worked as a songwriter before signing a recording contract with Asylum Records. His first albums, the jazz-oriented Closing Time (1973) and The Heart of Saturday Night (1974), reflected his lyrical interest in nightlife, poverty, and criminality. Repeatedly touring the U. S. , Europe, and Japan, he attracted greater critical recognition and commercial success with Small Change (1976), which he followed with Blue Valentine (1978) and Heartattack and Vine (1980). He produced the soundtrack for Francis Ford Coppola's 1981 film One from the Heart and subsequently made cameo appearances in several Coppola films. During the 1970s, he also had relationships with two prominent performers, Bette Midler and Rickie Lee Jones.