Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Excitable Boy

Today in Music History:

In 1976, after having been arrested 10 hours earlier, Jerry Lee Lewis was arrested again after brandishing a Derringer pistol outside Elvis Presley's Graceland's home in Memphis, demanding to see the 'King'.
First I have to get this off my chest. Some folks have made their way here via google or some other search engine looking for Christmas music. No, No, NOOOO! Not yet please. Wait for the first of December at least. I just can't stand TV, radio, malls and every other store in the world trying to cram this holiday down our throats starting in November. End Rant.

Warren Zevon Shadows are falling and I'm running out of breath
Keep me in your heart for awhile

So begins the last song on Warren Zevon's final album The Wind which was released on August 28, 2003. Ten days later Zevon died of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, usually associated with previous exposure to asbestos.
One of the most underrated classic rock musicians of all time and those who manage to discover his music often deem him a genius - and with good reason, although he never had much commercial success. Unless you live under a rock, of course you've heard Werewolves of London which was a hit back in 1978. Intelligent, satiric lyrics paired with raucous or beautiful melodies were trademarks of a Zevon song. I found that Zevon had quite the interesting life. Born to a Russian Jewish father and a Scottish mormon mother in Chicago Illinois. The family moved to California. Around the age of 13 he was a regular visitor to the home of Igor Stravinsky where he, along with Robert Craft, would study music. He was said to have scored the highest IQ ever in the city of Fresno, California. But he moved around often, and dropped out of high school when he was 16. I'll skip over his time as a songwriter for White Whale records, or his stint with the Everly Brothers and his poorly accepted first solo album released in 1969. Success finally came when Jackson Browne produced and promoted his major label debut in 1976. For the next 20 years Zevon would continue to record and release albums sporadically and with varying levels of success, while fighting personal demons including an acknowledged battle with alcoholism and drugs.

Zevon toured the US regularly during the 90s, often alone, with minimal accompaniment. By this time he was sober and remained so for the rest of his days. Many tours started in Colorado to allow Warren an opportunity to visit with his long-time friend, Hunter S. Thompson. Warren was close with several prominent writers who also collaborated on song-writing, including Carl Hiassen. He also served as musical coordinator for a 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, and other popular writers. In interviews, Zevon described a lifelong phobia of doctors and seldom received medical assessment. In 2002, after a long period of untreated illness and pain, Zevon was encouraged by his dentist to see a doctor; when he did so he was diagnosed with inoperable mesothelioma and was told he had three months to live. When his diagnosis became public, he told the media that he just hoped to live long enough to see the next James Bond movie. He then began recording his final album, The Wind, with guest appearances from close friends including Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh, David Lindley, Billy Bob Thornton, Emmylou Harris, and others.

On October 30, 2002, Zevon was featured on the Late Show with David Letterman as the only guest for the entire hour. Zevon performed several songs and spoke in length about his illness. Zevon was a frequent guest and occasional substitute bandleader on Letterman's television shows since Late Night first aired in 1982. When Dave asked Warren if his illness gave him any special insight into life and death, Warren shrugged and said he didn't think so, "Not unless I know how much you're supposed to enjoy every sandwich." There was a hush in the audience.

That night, Letterman ended his broadcast with his arm around the dying singer and said, "Warren, enjoy every sandwich." A perfect ending to a highly emotional hour of television. It was Warren’s last public performance.

On June 11, 2003, his grandsons, Augustus Warren and Maximus Patrick Zevon-Powell, were born to his daughter, Ariel and her husband, Ben Powell. Warren was in attendance at the hospital for their arrival. He rarely left his apartment at this point, but made every effort to be there for their birth. Warren did get to see that Bond film, it came out in 2002 and it was called Die Another Day. Zevon saw his last album immediately chart at #16 and he died at his home in Los Angeles, California, on September 7, 2003. He was 56. He lived nine months longer than the doctors said he would.
If I leave you it doesn't mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for awhile

When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
Keep me in your heart for while

There's a train leaving nightly called when all is said and done
Keep me in your heart for while
I should have wrote this back in September and bad on me for not doing that. If Werewolves is the only Zevon song you're familiar with, then do yourself a favor and check out todays song from the self titled 1976 album, then buy it and buy The Wind, and Enjoy every Sandwich.

Carmelita by Warren Zevon
(File taken down, check current posts for some more great music)

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Funny Toon