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Warren Zevon

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Best known for his hypnotic 1978 classic "Werewolves of London," Warren Zevon, one of the sharpest satirical songwriters of his time, also turned out to be a prophet of sorts in titling his long awaited 2000 album Life'll Kill Ya. In 2002, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an inoperable form of lung cancer, and doctors expected him to live no more than a few months. Zevon went ahead with a final recording, with the help of friends like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Dwight Yoakum, Joe Walsh and Don Henley, and lived to see its release before his death in September, 2003. The Wind received a host of Grammy nominations, including Best Song for "Keep Me In Your Heart." His duet with Bruce Springsteen, Disorder In The House, won.

Zevon was born in Chicago in 1947, but spend most of his life in California and Arizona. His father, a professional gambler, kept the family on the move almost constantly. Warren show aptitude for classical piano, but later turned to pop music to help him cope with his unstable lifestyle. During these years, he met and was greatly influenced by the great composer, Igor Stravinsky. When he was 16, his parents divorced and he stole his father's car to drive to New York City and start a career as a folksinger.

Zevon's first recordings were as part of the duo Lyme and Cybelle, and soon after, he released his debut solo album, Wanted Dead or Alive, in 1969. The album was poorly received, so he turned instead to to composing commercial jingles until he landed a job as the pianist for the Everly Brothers. One of Warren's songs was featured in the soundtrack for Easy Rider.

In 1974, Zevon returned to Los Angeles, where his friend Jackson Browne had secured him a record deal. In 1976, he released a self-titled album (produced by Browne) that was lauded by critics and featured the cream of LA's session musicians, plus guest appearances from Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Bonnie Raitt. Linda Ronstadt's later cover version of this recording's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" and "Hasten Down The Wind" brought Zevon to the attention of a wider audience.

In 1978, he released his classic album Excitable Boy, which established him as a major player in the Southern California rock scene and produced his most notable solo chart hit, "Werewolves of London." Personal problems and alcohol would soon hamper Zevon's progress as an artist. A promising live album was followed by a poorly selling concept album, The Envoy. Warren discovered sobriety during a career hiaturs, and returned to the fray in 1987 with Sentimental Hygiene, a welcome return to top form, which featured a new array of guest stars including Neil Young, Michael Stipe and Peter Buck (from R.E.M.), Bob Dylan, Don Henley, Jennifer Warnes and Brian Setzer.

Zevon promoted the album extensively and subsequently built upon his reputation with the cyberpunk movement-inspired Transverse City, his last album for Virgin Records, and the well-received Mr. Bad Example. Zevon also formed a band with Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry of R.E.M. under the name Hindu Love Gods, who issued a self-titled album in 1990. 1995's Mutineer, featured two songs ("Rottweiler Blues" and "Seminole Bingo") co-written with the American crime writer, Carl Hiaasen.

A couple of months before his death, Warren's daughter Ariel gave birth to twin boys, one of whom bears his grandfather's name. Warren's son, Jordan, is a working musician in Los Angeles.

© 2004