September 13, 1983, saw the release of the song “Johnsburg, Illinois,” by Tom Waits, an artist fated to become the most beloved acquired taste in American music. Dubiously referred to as a Chicago suburb despite sitting an apple’s throw from Wisconsin, Johnsburg had been the childhood home of Kathleen Brennan, Waits’s wife and music collaborator as well as a painter and record producer in her own right. The pair shared what Waits described as a “love at a second site” moment—they had initially met months earlier at a party—while Waits composed songs for the film One From the Heart. That film handed director Francis Ford Coppola twenty years of debt but clearly Waits made out okay. Johnsburg, meanwhile, lives on, home to just over 6000 souls, none of whom are required to sully their windshields with a village sticker.

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