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Warren Zevon

About Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon (24 January 1947 – 7 September 2003) was an American rock singer-songwriter and musician. He’s known best for his dark and outlandish sense of humor.

Zevon’s life is a classic tale of someone caught-up in bipolar disorder: alcoholism, drug-dependence, paternity suits, and divorce – a virtual train wreck on two feet. Still, his writing stands out among songwriters as some of the most original, interesting (and, okay, bizarre) on record. He released 13 studio albums in his career.

Zevon was a session musician for the Everly Brothers in the early 1970s, and came into a circle of artists ranging from Waddy Wachtel to Jackson Browne to Linda Rhonstadt to Don Henley to Bonnie Raitt to Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. That circle of friends cross-pollinated to create the California rock sound of the late 20th century. All of the artists just mentioned point to Zevon as a big influence on their music.

But Zevon had demons that trace back to his childhood and his relationship with a father who was a professional boxer and gambler, and anything but a mentor to his son. The younger Zevon rebelled against that by trying to outdo his old man, and entered a serious battle with alco-holism in the late 70s. He didn’t reemerge until the mid 80s, and that absence decimated his music career. He came back to write some of his best songs, but by then he was out of the mainstream, rejected by critics as a minor character, and his albums sold poorly. It wasn’t until the late 90s that his influence on rock music began to be fully appreciated.

One of his biggest fans was David Letterman, and his admiration helped Zevon make his case as a great songwriter. His repeated appearances on Letterman’s show brought Zevon’s career back to life. Zevon summed up his comeback with a his typical black humor: “It’s a damned hard way to make a living, having to die to get ’em to know you’re still alive.”

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