Tuesday, June 21, 2011
A Look at Warren Zevon: Part One
Damn it! Every time I apologize for a post hiatus, I manage to come right back with a magnificent lull. The only proper way to deal with this seems to be to stop apologizing and take no responsibility for any wrongdoing.
Anyway, my latest adoration in the singer/songwriter genre is for the genius of Mr. Warren Zevon.
Zevon's macabre humor and way with words helped forge some of the most lyrically intriguing songs in music history. His penchant for "hard-boiled" narratives told stories that were at once hilarious and heartbreaking.
Politics, the music business, celebrities; no one was off limits from the might of his pen, the growl of his guitar or the tinkling of the ivory keys on his piano.
His career spanned over four decades—not including the release of his 1969 debut album Wanted Dead Or Alive which Zevon said was released "to the sound of one hand clapping."
While Warren had only one "hit" in terms of solo chart success, 1978's "Werewolves of London", his albums created a cult following and he was respected throughout the business for his unique style and talents.
Zevon had a penchant for mischief and led a very hard life, struggling with substance abuse much like good friend Hunter S. Thompson, seen above giving Warren a mock check-up after he'd been diagnosed with terminal mesothelioma in the fall of 2002.
As Zevon told David Letterman during his final appearance on TV, "I might have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for 20 years."
During the same broadcast, Zevon also gave one of his most famous insights on life proclaiming that he learned to, "Enjoy every sandwich."
Below is his final public performance, the classic "Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner." This song still gives me goosebumps when the dual vocals come in once poor Roland has lost his head in the narrative.
Also below is the studio version of the track from 1978's smash album Excitable Boy.
It's much crisper obviously and the vocals are stronger, but the emotion of the moment in Zevon's last television appearance is palpable.
Since I mentioned it earlier, I've included "Werewolves of London" from the same album. It essentially sums up Zevon perfectly, and you should absolutely know any song with a chorus consisting of a wolf howl.