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Saturday, 7 September 2013

10 years since Warren Zevon died!

I cannot believe that it's 10 years since the great Warren Zevon died.

To mark the occasion here are some Warren Zevon tracks.

First is A Certain Girl




Here's Werewolves of London...
 

For your delectation here also is Excitable Boy...


Warren Zevon was a legend, albeit a mostly unknown one! Just take a read of his Wikipedia entry for a flavour of a life of oddity and some pain; here's a few examples:
'Zevon was born in Chicago, Illinois to William "Stumpy" Zevon (formerly "Zivotovsky") and Beverly Cope Simmons, a Mormon from Salt Lake City, Utah. "Stumpy" Zevon was a boxer, small-time criminal and Mickey Cohen associate of Russian Jewish origin and a relative of folk/blues-singer, Jedaiah Zivotovsky, They soon moved to Fresno, California. By the age of 13, Zevon was an occasional visitor to the home of Igor Stravinsky where he, alongside Robert Craft, briefly studied modern classical music. Zevon's parents divorced when he was 16 years old and he soon quit high school and moved from Los Angeles to New York to become a folk singer.

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Another early composition ("He Quit Me") was included in the soundtrack for the film Midnight Cowboy (1969).

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During the early 1970s, Zevon toured regularly with the Everly Brothers as keyboard player and band leader/musical coordinator.

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His dissatisfaction with his career (and a lack of funds) led him to move to Spain during the summer of 1975, where he lived and played in a small tavern in Sitges near Barcelona owned by David Lindell, a former mercenary. Together they composed Zevon's classic "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner".

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By September 1975, Zevon had returned to Los Angeles, where he roomed with then-unknown Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. There, he collaborated with Jackson Browne, who during 1976 would produce and promote Zevon's self-titled major-company debut. Contributors to this album included Nicks, Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, members of the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, and Bonnie Raitt. Ronstadt elected to record many of his songs, including "Hasten Down the Wind," "Carmelita", "Poor Poor Pitiful Me", and "Mohammed's Radio." Zevon's first tour during 1977 included guest appearances in the middle of Jackson Browne concerts, one of which is documented on a widely circulated bootleg recording of a Dutch radio program under the title The Offender meets the Pretender.

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During 1978, Zevon released his first major album, Excitable Boy (produced by Jackson Browne and guitarist Waddy Wachtel), to critical acclaim and popular success. The title tune (about a juvenile sociopath's murderous prom night) name-checked "Little Susie", the heroine of former employers the Everly Brothers' tune "Wake Up Little Susie", while songs such as "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" and "Lawyers, Guns and Money" used deadpan humor to wed geopolitical subtexts to hard-boiled narratives. Tracks from this album received heavy FM airplay and the single release "Werewolves of London", which featured Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, was a relatively lighthearted version of Zevon's signature macabre outlook and a Top 30 success. Rolling Stone called the album one of the most significant releases of the 1970s and placed Zevon alongside Neil Young, Jackson Browne, and Bruce Springsteen as one of the four most important new artists to become well known during the decade.

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In 1983, the recently divorced Zevon became engaged to Philadelphia DJ Anita Gevinson and moved to the East Coast.[4] After the disappointing reception for The Envoy, Zevon's distributor Asylum Records ended their business relationship, which Zevon discovered only when he read about it in the Random Notes gossip column of Rolling Stone. The trauma allegedly caused him to relapse into serious alcoholism and he voluntarily checked himself into an unnamed rehab clinic somewhere in Minnesota in 1984. His relationship with Gevinson ended shortly thereafter.[4] Zevon retreated from the music business for several years, during which he finally overcame severe alcohol and drug addictions.

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A lifelong fan of "hard-boiled" fiction, Zevon was friendly with several well known writers who also collaborated on his songwriting during this period, including Thompson, Carl Hiaasen and Mitch Albom. Zevon also served as musical coordinator and occasional guitarist for an ad-hoc rock music group called the Rock Bottom Remainders, a collection of writers performing rock and roll standards at book fairs and other events. This group included Stephen King, Dave Barry, Matt Groening and Amy Tan, among other popular writers, and it has continued to perform one benefit concert per year since Zevon's death.

An affiliated project for which Zevon both played and wrote liner notes is the offbeat 1998 album Stranger Than Fiction, a two CD set attributed to the Wrockers containing rock covers and originals by many of the Remainders authors plus such notables as Norman Mailer and Maya Angelou.

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After another five-year layoff, Zevon signed with industry veteran Danny Goldberg's Artemis Records and again rebounded with the mortality-themed 2000 release Life'll Kill Ya, containing the hymn-like "Don't Let Us Get Sick" and an austere version of Steve Winwood's 1980s success "Back in the High Life Again". With record sales reasonably brisk and adulatory music critics giving Zevon his best notices since Excitable Boy, Life'll Kill Ya is seen as his second comeback. He followed with 2002's My Ride's Here (with morbid prescience of things to come), which included "Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song)" (which was co-written by Tuesdays with Morrie author Mitch Albom, and featured Paul Shaffer, the "Late Night" band and a spoken guest vocal from TV host David Letterman) and the ballad "Genius", later taken as the title for a 2002 Zevon anthology, and a song whose string section illustrates the lasting influence of Stravinsky on Zevon's work.

At about this time, he and his neighbor actor Billy Bob Thornton formed a close friendship because of their common experiences with obsessive-compulsive disorder and the fact they lived in the same apartment complex.

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During interviews, Zevon described a lifelong phobia of doctors and said he seldom received medical assessment. Shortly before playing at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival in 2002, he started feeling dizzy and developed a chronic cough. After a long period of untreated illness and pain, Zevon was encouraged by his dentist to see a physician; when he did so he was diagnosed with inoperable mesothelioma (a form of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos). Refusing treatments he believed might incapacitate him, Zevon instead began recording his final album. The album, The Wind, includes guest appearances by close friends including Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh, David Lindley, Billy Bob Thornton, Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty, Dwight Yoakam, and others. It has been said that the decision to include "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" was his, much to the dismay of the others in the project, and his recording performance reduced the studio to tears; one part happy, one part sad.[citation needed] At the request of the music television channel VH1, documentarian Nick Read was given access to the sessions; his cameras documented a man who retained his mordant sense of humor, even as his health was deteriorating over time.

On October 30, 2002, Zevon was featured on the Late Show with David Letterman as the only guest for the entire hour. The band played "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" as his introduction. Zevon performed several songs and spoke at length about his illness. Zevon was a frequent guest and occasional substitute bandleader on Letterman's television shows since Late Night first broadcast during 1982. He noted, "I may have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for 20 years." It was during this broadcast that, when asked by Letterman if he knew something more about life and death now, he first offered his oft-quoted insight on dying: "Enjoy every sandwich." He also took time to thank Letterman for his years of help, calling him "the best friend my music's ever had". For his final song of the evening, and his final public performance, Zevon performed "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" at Letterman's request. In the green room after the show, Zevon presented Letterman with the guitar that he always used on the show, with a single request: "Here, I want you to have this, take good care of it."[6]

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Warren Zevon died on September 7, 2003, aged 56, at his home in Los Angeles, California. The Wind was certified gold by the RIAA during December 2003 and Zevon received five posthumous Grammy nominations, including Song Of The Year for the ballad "Keep Me In Your Heart". The Wind won two Grammys, with the album itself receiving the award for Best Contemporary Folk Album, while "Disorder in the House", Zevon's duet with Bruce Springsteen, was awarded Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal. These posthumous awards were the first Grammys of Zevon's more than 30-year career.

He was cremated and his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles.'


This was not an exercise in name-dropping, Warren Zevon was that influential and that respected in the American Music scene. I love his music although not necessarily his politics, "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" being an example that I choose not to sing along with.

Look out for other Warren Zevon tracks, there is a great cover of Prince's 'Raspberry Beret' for example but I leave you with 'Boom Boom Mancini' as Warren Zevon sure knew his boxing...



And here is some video of the fight between Ray Boom Boom Mancini and Duk Koo Kim that ended with the death of Duk Koo Kim and the subsequent suicides of his mother and the fight's referee...

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