Monday, September 08, 2003

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Warren Zevon has passed on. Knowing it was inevitable doesn't make it any easier to accept.

I was actually kinda late to pick up on Zevon; I was aware that he was a singer/songwriter out of L.A., one of the people in Jackson Browne's orbit, and I was not a Browne fan. I thought "Werewolves of London" was kinda neat, I liked his should-have-been-bigger single "A Certain Girl", and I liked the songs that Linda Ronstadt covered, but for some reason I was disinclined to buy until Creem magazine and Robert Christgau praised the heck out of his 1980 live set Stand in the Fire. A raucous, sloppy, fun concert LP, it made me a Zevon fan. I went out and picked up Excitable Boy, Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School (with "A Certain Girl"), and not long after, his next release The Envoy. Touring on that album, I caught him in concert at the Louisville Palace, and remember it as a great, energetic show. Still into his self-destructive rockstar period, he was loose but certainly gave the crowd its money's worth. After a five year hiatus in which stopped drinking for good, he returned with some excellent records, beginning with Sentimental Hygeine and later Mr. Bad Example, Mutineer, and Life'll Kill Ya, with only the muddled 1989 William Gibson-influenced concept record Transverse City failing to be consistently interesting.

Favorite Zevon album: Actually, I like them all (except City) more or less equally. I tend to listen a lot to the 1996 anthology I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, which has most of the highlights of WZ's career covered, except, inexplicably, "A Certain Girl".

Most underrated: 1995's spare Mutineer, which uses its odd instrumentation and naked, openhearted sentiment to good effect on some of WZ's strongest post 1970s songs.

Requiescat in pace, Mr. Zevon. That's all she wrote.

Photography by Mark Silver.