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#14 – The forgotten Icon of Rock n Roll – Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon

Warren William Zevon was born on January 24th 1947 in Chicago, Illinois, United States. This will be my honest and yeah probably hyperbolic feelings and thoughts on who I believe to be the greatest singer / songwriter that nobody really knows of. Zevon has some of the coolest, funkiest, darkest, funny and heartbreaking songs I’ve ever heard. Warren zevon to me is the epitome of cool he is the absolute defenition of a lyrical genius. Warren Zevon can tell a story of werewolves he can chronicle the ballad of Frank and Jesse James, take us into the tale of Roland the headless Thompson gunner he can pull on our heart strings with keep me in your heart and his rendition of Bob Dylan’s Knockin on heavens door. Warren Zevon is one of those talented artists that people in the music industry loved and appreciated but honestly I’ve never met a person who was a fan of him or who even knew who he was, which was a shock to me to be honest because he really is a story teller and his songs feel raw, gritty and have a certain bad ass undertone to them.

“We buy books because we believe we’re buying the time to read them”

Warren Zevon

Before I get going here I’m going to make a little list of my favourite of his songs. If I can get at least 1 person to at least give his music a chance I believe that you’ll be hooked on his style. There’s complete concerts on YouTube and all of his songs are on YouTube and Spotify. I’ve often driven for hours just listening to his songs. I love their originality and feeling of loss, pain, passion and excitement in his lyrics and voice. Warren tells a story and paints a picture with every one of his songs.

My top 20 – WARREN ZEVON

  1. Werewolves of London
  2. Desperados under the Eaves
  3. Mohammad’s radio
  4. Carmelita
  5. Roland the headless Thompson Gunner
  6. Lawyers, Guns & Money
  7. Johnny Strikes up the band
  8. Keep me in your heart
  9. Night time in the switching yard
  10. Exciteable Boy
  11. Please stay
  12. Knockin on heavens door
  13. My shits fucked up
  14. Frank and Jesse James
  15. I’ll sleep when I’m dead
  16. Accidentally like a martyr
  17. The Envoy
  18. Poor poor pitiful me
  19. Play it all night long
  20. Bo Diddily’s a gunslinger

My own personal favourite song of Zevon’s has got to be Werewolves of London. It kicks right off its short, sweet it’s to the point. It is insane its energetic and it’s one of the catchiest songs ever created. Right off the bat “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand“. That’s how you start a song and get someone interested right away. Werewolves of London is such a catchy song and the lyrics are so visceral and jump out of the radio when you play it.

The alliteration of the line “little old lady got mutilated late last night” it sticks in my head it’s wild and it’s classic Warren Zevon at his finest. This whole song captures his wild nature and the guitar, piano and the drums and beat of the song are endlessly replayable.

“except in dreams you’re never really free”

Desperados under the Eaves

I don’t understand how people have not been replaying some of these songs. The fact that they never really broke out and became as popular as Bob Dylan, Neil Young or Johnny Cash. To me Warren Zevon is a mix of the writing of Charles Bukowski and the lyrical sensibilities and genius of Bob Dylan. Take one of his earlier songs Johnny Strikes up the band he grabs up with the guitar instantly, “dry your eyes my little friend, let me take you by the hand, freddy gettin ready, rocksteady, when Johnny Strikes up the band” Zevon has our attention, he’s about to paint us a story with his lyrics and we’ll soon know. “Johhny is my main man, he’s the keeper of the keys, he’ll put your mind at ease he’s guaranteed to please, back by popular demand“. The guitar and the drums mixed with the lyrics and energy that only Warren Zevon could bring to a song is a deadly combination.

Johnny Strikes up the band, live from the Capitol theatre in 1982

The David Letterman connection

Warren Zevon on Letterman for the final time on October 30th 2002

Warren Zevon appeared on David Letterman’s late night show over a dozen times over his career. Warren often joked that Letterman has been his biggest fan. The pairing of these two makes perfect sense to me. Letterman was always self deprecating and a bit if an angry bastard in the best possible way. Warren Zevon had troubles of his own namely alcohol abuse and his music had that dark and often times darkly comedic. Warren was very funny in person and as monotone as Letterman. Truly a match made in heaven. The two bounced well off of each other and Zevon often would fill in as a musical guest for the night and play some of his best and Letterman’s favourite songs even if they performed well in the charts or not. Letterman was a big fan of the music and gave us some of the best interviews and content of Warren on record.

The banter between Warren and Letterman is genuine gold. Maybe it’s just me but I love seeing two hilarious and grumpy bastards talking life, music, stories and sandwiches.

Zevon had an electrifying energy on the stage

Warren Zevon was a one of a kind artist that doesn’t come along very often. Zevon performed with the likes of Neil Young, Jackson Brown and Stevie Nicks. Warren enjoyed success during his life and is respected and praised by a select but loyal group of die hard fans of his.

Warren Zevon performs with Neil Young

Warren Zevon died of Mesothelioma on September 7th 2003 in Los Angeles, California. He was 56 years old. In his typical attitude and style he worked hard, finished his final album the wind, he enjoyed every sandwich with Letterman and was ready to sleep when he’s dead. Warren Zevon to me is one of the greatest musicians of all time. His songs have fun, energy and often sadness that transcends time and his music is as relevant today as it was when he first released them.

Warren Zevon – The wind 2003

Warren’s most emotional, powerful, poignant and heartbreaking song. This was a song from Warren’s final album the wind recorded just months before he passed away. Keep me in your heart –

Warren Zevon was the rarest of all things. A free man who spoke honestly, he kicked and screamed on stage, he was funny, sad, happy and a bad son of a bitch who knew how to entertain. Whether his shit was fucked up or if we were feeling sorry for poor poor pitiful Warren to when he was Knockin on heavens door near the end. The work done by Zevon is transendent of time and space, his words are visceral and cut deep into your heart and stick with you. Warren Zevon rocked on until the bitter end, isn’t that all any of us can really hope for……

To me, the message of my songs, of all songs, is “enjoy life.” My message as a person who evidently doens’t have much more planned is the same. It’s the only message I ever thought art had any business having.

– Warren Zevon