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I saw Warren Zevon having a drink at Trader Vics...



The all-star tribute album to Warren Zevon, ENJOY EVERY SANDWICH: THE SONGS OF WARREN ZEVON, has recently hit stores, so I thought I would take a few moments to remember one of my personal singer-songerwriter faves.

“ Our conversations are pretty much limited to him yelling at me about spooking the bonefish."
-- Warren Zevon, 1995

Aside from the fact that “Werewolves of London” is one of my all-time favorite songs, here are a few reasons why I love Warren Zevon beyond measure:

He was a classically trained keyboard and composing prodigy—pals with Igor Stravinsky, no less!

If a man can be measured by the company he kept, here’s a brief measure of Zevon’s professional and personal collaborations: Hunter S. Thompson, Jackson Browne, Jeff Pocaro, Dwight Yoakam, Bruce Springstein, Dave Barry, Jonathan Kellerman, Carl Hiaasen, Lindsey Buckingham, Emmylou Harris, Joe Walsh, Billy Bob Thornton, David Letterman, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmidt, Paul Schaffer, Linda Ronstadt, Amy Tan, the Everly Brothers, R.E.M., Tom Petty, Ry Cooder, T-Bone Burnett, Bob Dylan, Glenn Frey, Shawn Colvin, Steve Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, John McVie, Graham Nash, Flea, Neil Young, Chick Corea, Jerry Garcia, Jesse Ventura (played his gubernatorial inauguration!), Paul Muldoon, Meatloaf, Kinky Friedman, Tom Petty, Waddy Wachtel, Brian Setzer, William Shatner (he commissioned a TV theme), Bruce Hornsby, Tommy Shaw, George Clinton, Ross MacDonald, gee whiz . . .
He was a fellow Aquarius. Rock on.

According to Hunter S. Thompson, he was a crack shot with a .44 Magnum.

He quit smoking about a year before he was diagnosed with cancer. Likely, his mesothelioma was due to childhood exposure to asbestos-treated carpeting. He also kicked his heavy drinking habit and never played the confess-all celebrity victim.

He lived long enough to see his son Jordan and daughter Ariel to adulthood and to see his twin grandsons, Augustus and Maximus, make the scene.

He lived long enough to see “The Wind” debut higher than any of his other albums. THE WIND yielded five posthumous Grammy nominations: Best Contemporary Folk Album (“The Wind”), Song of the Year and Best Pop Male Vocal Performance (“Keep Me in Your Heart”), Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal {“Disorder in the House” with Bruce Springsteen). A proud Jordan Zevon took home his daddy’s Grammys for Folk Album of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

He played a Rock-Bottom Remainders gig in Maine, singing the lead on “Poor, Pitiful Me,” but yielding the frontman chores to Stephen King (yes, THAT Stephen King) on “Werewolves of London.”

No one else had any business subbing for Paul Shaffer on the Letterman Show.

He had the most enigmatic smile this side of the Mona Lisa.

He had a cool bit part in Dwight Yoakam’s film “South of Heaven, West of Hell,” playing a man who couldn’t smell.

Imagine the supreme weirdness of seeing my former shrink thanked in the liner notes for “The Wind.”

He wrote the best new song I’ve heard in four years. Here it is. Buy THE WIND and listen to it repeatedly. You’ll thank me.

Prison Grove
written by Warren Zevon & Jorge Calderón, Zevon Music, (BMI)/Googolplex Music (BMI)

An icy wind burns and scars
Rushes in like a fallen star
Through the narrow space
Between these bars
Looking down on Prison Grove

Dug in, hunkered down
Hours race without a sound
Gonna carry me to where I'm bound
Looking down on Prison Grove
Iron will hard as rock
Hold me up for the fateful knock
When they walk me down in a mortal lock
Out on Prison Grove

Shine on all these broken lives
Shine on
Shine the light on me

Knick Knack Paddy Wack
They say you'll hear your own bones crack
When they bend you back to bible black
Then you'll find your love

Some folks have to die too hard
Some folks have to cry too hard
Take one last look at the prison yard
Goodbye Prison Grove

Shine on all these broken lives
Shine on
Shine the light on me

He wrote the line, “I’m sprawled across the davenport of despair.” I don’t think a better line has been written in English, ever.

In the VH1 “Inside/Out” special aired in 2003, he took a nap on the loneliest-looking cot in the world. As a cancer survivor, I know what it’s like to take that particular lie-down. And yet, frail as he was, he kept going and got that album made. Think about the title of the album. Think about which part of his body was dying first.

He had a prescient sense of humor: his personal emblem was the memento mori.

He died peacefully in his sleep. Thank you, God, for that.

Excellent Warren Zevon Links: (The Official Site) (Jaxer’s Fan Page, includes a killer quotes section) (Margaret’s Warren Zevon Fan Page)
(The Zevon Fan Archives, includes lyrics to most of his songs)
(The Warren Zevon Other Page) (The Warren Zevon Newsgroup) (The Unofficial Warren Zevon Home Page)’abbr=zevon (Zevon’s page on his label’s site, includes a good timeline of his recording career) (Zevon’s favorite charity) (Zevon lyrics source)
(Yep, even the bloggers loved him) (A good resource site for info on mesothelioma, the form of lung cancer that killed Warren Zevon) (10 Reasons why Warren Zevon was cool) (VH1 page on Warren Zevon)
(VH1 page on Inside/Out documentary on recording ‘The Wind)

Further posthumous notes:

Since my last issue of Retro Hell, we have lost musicians Ray Charles, John Whitehead (of McFadden and Whitehead), Syreeta Wright, Laura Brannigan, Izora Rhodes Armstead of the Weathergirls, Skeeter Davis, Rick James, Johnny Ramone, Fred Ebb, Arthur Kane of the New York Dolls, New York Deejay Scott Muni, Billy Davis (he wrote “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke”), Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, and Jan Berry (of Jan and Dean), as well as such cool non-music types as Janet Leigh, Rodney Dangerfield, Jacques Derrida, Bill Balance, Joyce Jillson. Russ Meyer, animator Frank Thomas, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Acquanetta, Neal Fredericks (talented cinematographer of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT), Czeslaw Milosz, Julia Child, Fay Wray, oil well fire wrangler Red Adair, Henri Cartier-Bresson, actor Sam Edwards (thanks for the camping trip, Sam), radio actor Jackson Beck, choreographer Bella Lewitsky, (he directed the original THE BLOB), Isabel Sanford, Marlon Brando, Danny Dark (you didn’t know his name, but you knew his voice from thousands of radio commercials), Ronald Reagan (I thought he could act, yes), Watergate figures Sam Dash and Archibald Cox on the same day, Tony Randall, Syd Hoff, Alan King, Hubert Selby, Jr., Carrie Snodgress, Peter Ustinov, Alistair Cooke, Paul Winfield, Christopher Reeve and Timothy, a 160-year-old tortoise who was mascot to the British Royal Navy during (oh yeah) the Crimean War.

Sic transit gloria, kids. Peace out.

Amélie Frank


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