Warren Zevon

Posted by Janet | March 9, 2008

January 24, 1947 – September 7, 2003

Warren Zevon, musician and songwriter, died from lung cancer at age 56.

In interviews, Zevon described a lifelong phobia of doctors and said he seldom received medical assessment. In 2002, after a long period of untreated illness and pain, Zevon was encouraged by his dentist to see a physician; when he did so he was diagnosed with inoperable mesothelioma (a form of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos, and also the same cancer that killed Steve McQueen). Refusing treatments he believed might incapacitate him, Zevon instead began recording his final album. The album, The Wind, includes guest appearances by close friends including Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh, David Lindley, Billy Bob Thornton, Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty, and others. At the request of the music television channel VH1, documentarian Nick Read was given access to the sessions; his cameras documented a man who retained his mordant sense of humor, even as his health was deteriorating over time.

On October 30, 2002, Zevon was featured on the Late Show with David Letterman as the only guest for the entire hour. The band played “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” as his introduction. Zevon performed several songs and spoke at length about his illness. Zevon was a frequent guest and occasional substitute bandleader on Letterman’s television shows since Late Night first aired in 1982. He noted, “I may have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for 20 years.” It was during this broadcast that Zevon first offered his oft-quoted insight on facing death: “Enjoy every sandwich.” He also took time to thank Letterman for his years of support, calling him “the best friend my music’s ever had”. For his final song of the evening, and his final public performance, Zevon performed “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” at Letterman’s request.

Zevon previously stated that his illness was expected to be terminal within months after the diagnosis in the fall of 2002; however, he lived to see the birth of twin grandsons in June 2003 and the release of The Wind on August 28, 2003. Owing in part to the first VH1 broadcasts of Nick Read’s documentary Warren Zevon: Keep Me In Your Heart (which brought fresh attention to Zevon’s illness), the album entered the national record charts at number 16, Zevon’s highest placement since Excitable Boy. When his diagnosis became public, Zevon told the media that he just hoped to live long enough to see the next James Bond movie, a goal he accomplished; ironically, the film was entitled Die Another Day.

Warren Zevon died on September 7, 2003, aged 56, at his home in Los Angeles, California. The Wind was certified gold by the RIAA in December 2003 and Zevon received five posthumous Grammy nominations, including Song Of The Year for the ballad “Keep Me In Your Heart”. The Wind won two Grammys, with the album itself receiving the award for Best Contemporary Folk Album, while “Disorder in the House”, Zevon’s duet with Bruce Springsteen, was awarded Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal. These posthumous awards were the first Grammys of Zevon’s more than 30-year career.

He was cremated and his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles. – adapted from Wikipedia

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