|Splash | Home | Bio | Articles | Links | Definitions | FAQ Welcome to the Warren Zevon Other Page|
Biography, at a glance
“You get in front of people and
say ‘here’s this deal we all dread. But here’s some laughs.’ I don’t
see what harm it could do,” said Warren in fall of 2002, shortly after
he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He was given three months to live –
a death sentence in anyone’s mind. But Warren’s last album, The Wind,
wasn’t a document of death. It was the final portrayal of a creative,
Born in 1947 to a Russian Jewish
immigrant and a Scottish/Welsh Mormon, Warren William Zevon's early
years were marked by genius. He
Warren was dismissed from White
Whale in 1967. In the meantime, he was picked up by Imperial Records,
and his debut album Wanted Dead or Alive was released in 1969.
His son Jordan was born that year as well. Wanted, however, did
poorly, and a second album, Emblem for the Devil (sometimes
titled A Leaf in the Wind), was never released. It would take
another six years before he had an opportunity to record again. While
he waited, he toured with the Everly Brothers, recorded jingles for
Boone’s Farm Wines and Camaro and lived in Spain with his wife,
Jackson Browne was negotiating
with Asylum Records, which was owned by David Geffen at the time. In
1976, Jackson's work paid off when Warren signed a deal with Asylum and
released a self-titled album. While the album itself did not chart
highly, peaking at #189, Linda Ronstadt covered four of its songs over a
three year period: “Hasten Down the Wind”, “Carmelita”, “Mohammed’s
Radio” and “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”. The latter song charted at #26 in
1978. Warren embarked on a tour in support of the album. When he
returned home, it was in time for the birth of his daughter, Ariel.
On January 24, 1978, the album
Excitable Boy was released. Shortly after, a novelty song
written as a collaboration in 1975 spun its way up the charts, and
Warren was suddenly a very famous man. “Werewolves of London” charted
at #21. Excitable Boy peaked at #8. Critics lauded his sound and
he was selling out arenas with his confrontational style.
Yet his success only exacerbated
a problem he’d had since he was a teenager. He sought treatment for
alcoholism in 1979 at the insistence of his wife and friends. But it
wasn’t enough: his marriage to Crystal ended in 1980, and he was dropped
from his label two years later after releasing three albums - Bad
Luck Streak in Dancing School, Stand in the Fire and The
Envoy - to dwindling public notice. It wasn’t until 1986 that
Warren was able to permanently set aside his drinking and drug use.
The second half of Warren’s
career began in 1986, when “Werewolves” was used in the Martin Scorcese
film The Color of Money. In 1987, he was the first artist signed
to Virgin Records. Sentimental Hygiene didn’t chart, yet it
represented a new surge of creative output from Warren. Guest musicians
included REM, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Don Henley, among many others.
In the next four years he would release Transverse City on Virgin
Records, and Mr. Bad Example and Hindu Love Gods,
a collaboration with REM, on Giant. His music was heard in
movies such as Love at Large and Grand Canyon.
1992 marked Warren’s first
television work, when he scored the music for an episode of Tales
from the Crypt. His first acting work was in 1994 with an
appearance on The Larry Sanders Show. In addition, he wrote and
performed theme music for TekWar, Route 66 and Action.
Queens Supreme used his song “Lawyers, Guns and Money” as its
theme. Other acting work included a guest appearance on NBC’s
Suddenly Susan and a silent role in the film South of Heaven,
West of Hell, directed by Billy Bob Thornton.
Warren returned to music in 1993
with the live album Learning to Flinch and 1995’s Mutineer.
His label, Giant, dropped him in 1996. For the next few years, Warren
toured frequently, released a two-disc retrospective on Rhino Records
and began periodically filling in for Paul Shaffer on The Late Show
with David Letterman.
Artemis Records signed Warren in
late 1999 and released Life’ll Kill Ya in early 2000. For many
fans, it was a strong return to form. Although it didn’t enjoy the
success of Excitable Boy, the writing was clearly the best since
the late 1970’s. A follow-up album, My Ride’s Here, came out in
2002. My Ride's Here features songs co-written with Carl
Hiaasen, Mitch Albom and Hunter S. Thompson.
But that summer, just before
performing at the Edmonton Folk Festival, Warren started feeling weak
and dizzy and developed a chronic, persistent cough. The symptoms
didn’t go away when he returned home, and they began to interfere with
his daily workouts. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in August and
made a statement to the public on September 12, 2002.
No one is entirely sure how
Warren developed mesothelioma. While Warren had been smoking for almost
thirty years before quitting in 1996, the cause of mesothelioma is
exposure to asbestos. After Warren died, his son Jordan discussed his
theory as to how Warren contracted it. Warren’s father owned a carpet
store in Arizona, and when Warren was quite young, he used to play in
the attic, which was loaded with asbestos. It is unclear whether or not
his apartment building contained asbestos.
Almost immediately after his
diagnosis, Warren began work on his final album, The Wind. David
Letterman set aside an entire show dedicated to Warren and his music on
October 30, 2002. It was Warren’s last public performance. Over the
course of six months, Warren wrote songs and recorded with Bruce
Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Joe Walsh, Tom Petty, Emmylou Harris, Billy
Bob Thornton and Ry Cooder, along with a host of others. VH1 filmed the
making of The Wind for a documentary, VH1 InsideOut: Keep Me
In Your Heart.
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.
The 46th Grammy Awards were held shortly after Warren's death, in February 2004. He was nominated for five Grammys and won two - Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal ("Disorder in the House", with Bruce Springsteen) and Best Contemporary Folk Album (The Wind, with Noah Scot Snyder and Jorge Calderon).