Ranking The Wire Theme Songs

wireThe Greatest Show On Television, Ever™ used Tom Waits' "Down In A Hole" as its theme song. Each season featured a different artist singing the song.

Here's how I rank the five versions of "Down In A Hole" that accompanied the opening credits for each season of The Wire.

5. Season 3, The Neville Brothers

4. Season 4, DoMaJe

3. Season 5, Steve Earle

2. Season 2, Tom Waits

1. Season 1, The Blind Boys of Alabama

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Interesting ranking....

My own:

5. Steve Earle (Season 5)
4. DoMaJe (Season 4)
3. Neville Brothers (Season 3)
2. Blind Boys of Alabama (Season 1)
1 Tom Waits (Season 2)

Of course they are all very closely ranked.

May 23, 2009 @ 11:32 AM


You like the Wire Mike? Who knew?

May 23, 2009 @ 12:01 PM


Blind Boys of Alabama is best IMO

January 2, 2010 @ 7:54 AM


Interesting! My list is exactly the opposite. But I really like the song and think all are well done.

January 7, 2010 @ 8:15 AM


2. Steve Earle
3. DoMaJe
4. Nevilles
5. Tom Waits

Waits is by far the worst, hard to listen to, but appropriate as the show (which I love) has some scenes that are hard to watch.

Blind Boys is sweet and by far the best. The other 3 are close.

September 6, 2010 @ 8:33 AM


wow. How could ANYONE say that the Waits version is anything but the best. Incredible song by an incredible artist. If you like the Blind Boys better - then you don't understand the intent of the song. Seriously. Go watch a Tom Waits concert, maybe you'll "get it."

December 30, 2010 @ 2:07 PM

Angry Joe

DoMaJe was the worst.. especially the middle part by the one young girl, how about you clear your nose before you lay down a song that's going to play for millions every week?

June 20, 2011 @ 9:19 AM


It's possible to like and respect Tom Waits as an artist yet dislike his rendition of the song, even if he wrote it. I agree that Waits' is the worst of the bunch ... monotonous, repetitive and colorless vocal performance.

October 13, 2011 @ 2:22 AM


Tom Waits "colorless"? Come on now. Like him or not Waits' vocals are nothing if not colorful.

September 3, 2012 @ 1:52 PM


here are my rankings

Blind Boys of Alabama (S1)
Steve Earle (S5)
Tom Waits (S2)
Neville Brothers (S3)
DoMaJe (S4)

January 10, 2013 @ 10:25 PM


Season 2 version is absolute dog shit. Sounds like an aging white man mocking Louis Armstrong.

February 16, 2013 @ 11:41 PM


Tom Waits isn't for everyone. Some people just do not like his voice or style of music, so for those of you that are criticizing people for not enjoying season 2's intro, just realize that not everyone has the same taste as you. GASP!

April 13, 2013 @ 1:22 PM

Rasputin Thanateros

Tom Waits is my favorite. Always been a fan. He didn't always have the"old white guy mocking satchmo"
voice. Check out 1st LP"closing time"
Beautiful. What's the big deal over "the wire" anyway. I like it but its just a cop show. Rated R law&order.

May 9, 2013 @ 7:29 AM


Rated R law & order?!?? ARE YOU OFF YOUR ROCKER?!

July 6, 2013 @ 7:02 PM


season 2 is brilliant, fantastic characters, ........ the original is the best for me...

July 16, 2013 @ 4:20 AM


5. Tom Waits
4. Neville Brothers

3. Steve Earie
2. DoMaJe
1. Blind Boys

Blind Boys is actually good as a song. DoMaJe and Steve Earie are tolerable as intros. I can honestly not believe they put the Tom Waits version on television, that is just awful. The Neville Brothers version is awful, but it doesn't make my ears bleed like the Waits version.

I thought the Waits version was someone butchering a Louie Armstrong impersonation.

September 2, 2013 @ 5:46 PM

Kyle Lovette

I like Blind Boys version the best but I admit that a good portion of the reason why is because I've seen Blind Boys of Alabama perform multiple times and have never seen anything less than a great performance by them. Tom Waits isn't my thing but I respect him as an artist and musician and the mark he has left on the history of rock'n'roll. Watching the show on HBOGo, Season 1 is the only season that I listened to the whole intro of each episode while I would skip past it in other seasons. An interesting note that I haven't seen mentioned is that Steve Earle, the guy singing the intro in Season 5, has also appeared in several episodes starting in season 3, if I'm not mistaken. When I first heard season 5's intro, I thought the voice sounded familiar. So I listened to it several times then I realized it sounded like a guy who had appeared on the show. So I checked in to it and sure enough, I was right. He always appeared in a scene with Bubs (or Bubbles) since that's whose storyline he was a part of. Steve Earle was the white guy with semi-long hair and a beard that played the ex-addict who lead the NA meetings Bubs would attend and was also Bubs's sponsor in the beginning of season 5.

September 28, 2013 @ 10:10 AM


Man, Tom Waits is the best for sure... so gnarly, gritty, real, blue collar... like the show... it has an urgency, a sense of desperation to it that the others dont have... I find myself listneing to it all the way through, whereas the blind boys version I skipped, no disrespect at all to the blind boys... I am a fan of Steve Earle, but i thought his was the worst, just unimaginative..

I would go with:
1. Tom Waits
2. Neville Bros
3. Blind Boys
4. DoMaJe
5. Steve Earle

November 3, 2013 @ 11:02 AM


1 Neville Bros
2 Blind Boys
big gap..
3 Tom Waits
4 Domale
5 Steve Earle

July 26, 2014 @ 1:43 AM


Blind boys of Alabama was by far the absolute best

August 27, 2014 @ 9:01 PM


1. Blind Boys of Alabama - Season 1
2. Four way tie(who cares)

October 11, 2014 @ 10:45 AM


I had to comment on the dude who thinks the Waits version is the best. Is that a joke? Waits is a horrific singer. I can sing exactly like him without much effort. All you have to do is sort of force your voice out and it sounds exactly like him. It requires no talent at all. He is absolutely an atrocious artist. Anybody who likes Waits doesn't have a clue about music and is a complete failure at life.

February 12, 2015 @ 2:48 AM


The person above states, "Anybody who likes Waits doesn't have a clue about music and is a complete failure at life." That's hilarious, because Rolling Stone has him listed on both their 100 greatest artist and 100 greatest singers. Rza said that his voice "has the smoothness of Barry White, but the raspiness of a mountain lion." LA weekly has him in the top ten of their Top 20 singer-songwriters of all time. Vh1 on their top 100, telegraph, pitchfork, etc have all put him on lists of the best. He has been covered Joan Baez, Norah Jones, The Ramones, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Queens of the Stone Age, Tom Jones, The Eagles, Patti Smyth, Robert Plant, just to name a small few. I'm sure none of those people or media outlets know anything about music, and they all seem to be failures in life. There is a ton more information to prove that Tom Waits is an important influence on all types of music. His acting career isn't too shabby either. You seem to be the one that needs to learn a little more about music. Tom waits has made albums from the mid 70s til the present day. He continues to sell out every concert he books. Educate yourself and don't make broad ignorant statements.

April 6, 2015 @ 11:28 PM

Teresa Keene

I loved the version by the Baltimore teens DoMaJe, second only to season one's version. Their voices were terrific and I dug how one verse crowded up on the end of the last. I can't stand Waits' drunken, one-note shouting but the man can write a freakin' song! The other versions I can take or leave.

September 16, 2015 @ 1:18 AM


Season 1 hands down the best version.

September 16, 2015 @ 11:18 AM

Snake Eater

Season 1 one is hands down the best version. Just classic. Season 3 is right behind it.

October 3, 2015 @ 3:32 PM

Frank Sobotka

lol.. I'll keep this short and sweet. All the Tom Waits haters should google a guy called bob Dylan, he doesn't have a lilting voice of gold either but you may have heard of him. IMO Tom Waits is kind of legend. I suppose you thought rolling stone magazine were confused assholes when they chose "like a rolling stone" as the best song ever. You must hate Leonard Cohen too. Lets pick someone more modern with a grinding voice.. That modest mouse guy has made a living for a couple decades with his "shitty" voice. It must be perplexing how all these esthetically displeasing (at least to you) artists make millions of dollars and enjoy critical and lasting acclaim. Then again apparently "anyone can sing" (write, compose, arrange and perform) "like Tom Waits", its easy! Rock and Roll Acclaim here I come..

I'm curious what ranks as good music to Mr. opinion.. Brittany Spears? Something with a real nice hook? Black Eyed Peas? Maybe a song with the same lyric repeated 35-40 times (for emphasis!) Usher? Maybe some teen pop?

I guess the point is: your opinion is like your ass-sphincter, everyone has one and yours isn't all that special.

October 22, 2015 @ 11:02 AM


season 4 version is my favorite, because i am a funkateer, and that version - with no offense intended to the nevilles, who i love and can be funky as all hell - is by far the funkiest in the mix.

January 10, 2016 @ 3:26 PM


The Tom Waits version is just awful. I like Tom, but he sounds like he's taking a dump sand screaming. Its not artistic and its not colorful its not soulful its not interesting... Its crap. Its terrible. I fast forward through it every time. The first season is and was the best. Everyone who thinks Tom Waits version is the best is tone deaf.

January 30, 2016 @ 12:01 PM


Tom Waits version is pretty bad. It sounds way to contrived, like some white dude trying to sound Jamaican for Rasta-Feast at Applebee's. Anyone stating I have to go listen to him or Dylan... no thanks, Dylan has never impressed me. I work hard for a living and never protested in public, I'm a listener not trying to interpret poetry from entitled clowns telling me how to vote. As for Rolling Stone making him a top 100. . . that source is as reliable as getting shot in south Chicago.

February 2, 2016 @ 12:41 AM


I didn't even realize Season 2's version was Tom Waits and that it was his song originally until I looked it up. I've listened to Tom Waits here and there (his most popular stuff primarily) and sometimes I kinda dig his vibe, but I really didn't like Season 2's version, lol.
Steve Earle's version for Season 5 is definitely my favorite and I think it's perfect for the finale season.
My list goes:
1- 5. Steve Earle
2- 3. Neville Brothers
3- 1. Blind Boys of Alabama
4- 4. Domaje
5- 2. Tom Waits

February 14, 2016 @ 2:16 PM

Jon from NZ

You crazies - DoMaJe was the most authentic version for this series.

February 24, 2016 @ 11:09 PM


does anyone know who played the guitar lead/solo in domaje's version...which is tied for number one with the BBA and Nevilles. stever earle next but I was likely headed for a drink out of ear shot...then tom waits. ouch. mute.
about that guitar solo...unexpected riff in that girl group thing... it was really well done and right on the money. and I hope the girls got something out of this - the wire has just exploded.

March 27, 2016 @ 3:54 PM

New Rochelle Terry

Domaje is the worst shit I have ever heard in my life. Who thought it was a good idea to let some whack ass little kids, including one that needs to blow their nose before getting on a mic, start fucking around in a studio? Bad idea. On top of that, someone else thought it was a good idea to use it as the intro to the show? Worse idea. Sounds like it was recorded in a phone booth on a four-track tape recorder. I know someone thought this was a good idea at the time, and they could get away with it, but now with the shows cult following, that's a mistake they have to live with for the rest of their careers.

1 Tom Waits
2 Blind Boys from Alabama
3 Neville Brothers
4 Steve Earle
5 DoMaJe

If I could rank DoMaJe any lower than fifth I would have. I would even go so far as to say it ranks among the worst performances of a theme songs for any show ever made. The guy who performed the Love Boat theme song thinks DoMaJe is whack. How many members of DoMaJe would you wager were arrested in the "peaceful protests" in Baltimore after Saint Freddie Grey died? Likely all of them.

Steve Earle does not get a pass here either; if the Steve Earle that recorded "Copperhead Road" met the Steve Earle that recorded "down in a hole", he would have tried to get drugs from him, but also tell him that version of "down in a hole" is awful.

Anyone of you who said any version other than Tom Wait's version is the best are complete morons and probably racists that don't know anything about music.


October 11, 2016 @ 5:15 AM


It was a good idea to have them do it because they were young kids from the city the show is about in a season that focuses on kids. Your the only person who cares. Who watches a show then thinks shit the theme music ruined for me? And not liking tom waits makes you racist but assuming all black Baltimore youth participated in riots n looting isnt racist at all. Go choke on harambes dick you ignorant fuck

January 20, 2017 @ 4:15 AM


Just finished watching, (I know I take my time to get round to things) - loved the show, loved the intro's - all of em...!

January 22, 2018 @ 6:43 PM

Alen McMilton

All the intros were great except for Season 5, Season 5's intro sounded like dogshit..... its sung by that whitetrash bikie who helps Bubs throughout the show. Good actor but ffs that singing voice made me cringe. i had to skip this intro everytime

The other intros perfectly captured the vibe of each season.

March 9, 2018 @ 10:33 PM

J Fox

How can Tom Waits not be the top selection? It is his song! He wrote it!

As for the comment about how it is sung, please understand the context of the song. It is from an album whose songs tell the rise and fall of a crooner/nightclub singer. That is why it has a crooning style like a Louie Armstrong.

On top of it all, Wait’s version has that absolutely wicked lead guitar part from Marc Ribot. Ribot is a genius!

March 22, 2019 @ 10:04 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@J Fox

What's your favourite version of Respect?

What's your favourite version of With a Little Help From My Friends?

What's your favourite version of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun?

March 23, 2019 @ 9:58 AM


5. Steve Earle (Season 5) - boring elevator music
4. The Neville Brothers (Season 3)
3. The Blind Boys of Alabama (Season 1)
4. Tom Waits (Season 2) - Original
5. DoMaje (Season 4) - Best fit for the shows content, especially tailored to season 4s focus on the children.

March 25, 2019 @ 7:30 AM

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