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Warren Zevon 9/2003

warren-zevon-lettermanSeptember 7, 2003 – Warren Zevon was born January 24, 1947. He never made it into the mainstream popularity, but the in-crowd knew him as a prolific songwriter/singer/musician, noted for his offbeat, sardonic view on life which was reflected in his dark, often painfully humorous songs, which sometimes incorporated political and/or historical themes and personas.

He worked with a huge list of mega artists. To give an idea on his stretch here is an anecdotal paragraph.
By September 1975, Zevon had returned to Los Angeles (from Spain), where he roomed with then-unknown Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. There, he collaborated with Jackson Browne, who in 1976 produced and promoted Zevon’s self-titled major-label debut.

Contributors to this album included Nicks, Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, members of the Eagles, Carl Wilson, 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 in 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.

His best-known compositions include “Werewolves of London“, “Lawyers, Guns and Money“, “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” and “Johnny Strikes Up The Band”, all of which are featured on his 1978 sophomore release, Excitable Boy.

He was a frequent guest on Late Night with David Letterman and the Late Show with David Letterman. Letterman later performed guest vocals on “Hit Somebody! (The Hockey Song)” with Paul Shaffer and members of the CBS Orchestra.

Sixteen years before he died of lung cancer in 2003, Warren Zevon recorded a song about a blue-collar worker that pretty much foreshadowed his own death. ‘The Factory’ appeared on Zevon’s 1987 comeback album ‘Sentimental Hygiene,’ and chronicles the life of a man who grows up to be a factory worker just like his dad.

After Zevon hammers home his point about the uselessness of it all, he ends with these stinging lines: ”Kickin’ asbestos in the factory / Punchin’ out Chryslers in the factory / Breathin’ that plastic in the factory.” Zevon died on January 24th 1947 of advanced malignant mesothelioma, which is often caused by exposure to asbestos. Thing is, Zevon never worked in a factory, so his odds of developing cancer there were nil. Yet, somehow, a decade and a half before the end, he predicted the cause of his death.

In the period leading up to his death from cancer on September 7, 2003, he wrote and produced one last beautiful piece of work, titled: The Wind and the documentary “Keep me in your heart for awhile“. He was 56.

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