Monday, July 20, 2009

Warren Zevon's The Wind

Warren Zevon was an American singer-songwriter known for his "sardonic wit and blazing intelligence" which he incorporated into his music. Some of his well known songs include "Werewolves of London", "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner", and "Lawyers, Guns and Money". In 2002, Zevon was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He refused any treatment and started on his final album The Wind.

The Wind features guest appearances from several of Zevon's close friends (Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley to name a few). The making of the album was made into a documentary for VH1 entitled, Warren Zevon: Keep Me In Your Heart.

When I first heard The Wind, I knew it was Zevon's final album, made while he was dying, and so I listened to it differently than I would other albums. It seems to frequently refer to Zevon's illness (but maybe that's just me). Some songs seemed to contain a lot of regret.

Included on the album is a cover of the Bob Dylan song "Knockin' on Heaven's Door". (Not hard to see how this one relates to dyint.) Another song, "Disorder in the House" (recorded with Bruce Springsteen and winner of a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal), is about a house coming apart and falling down. It starts with the lines:
Disorder in the house
The tub runneth over
Plaster's falling down in pieces by the couch of pain

It ends:
Disorder in the house
All bets are off
I'm sprawled across the davenport of despair
Disorder in the house
I'll live with the losses
And watch the sundown through the portiere

Below is "Keep Me in Your Heart" also from The Wind.

Shortly after his diagnosis, in 2002, Zevon appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman as the only guest for an entire hour (most of the appearance can be seen on You Tube). Zevon was a frequent guest on The Late Show. When discussing his cancer, Zevon says,"I might have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for 20 years. It was one of those phobias that really didn't pay off." Later on, Letterman asks Zevon if he knows something about life and death that Letterman doesn't know. Zevon responds, "Not unless I know how much you're supposed to enjoy every sandwich." (The line "enjoy every sandwich" then became one of Zevon's more famous lines.)

Warren Zevon died September 7, 2003, less than two weeks after the release of The Wind on August 26th.

Special thanks to one of my colleagues, Leighton Sweet, for tipping me off about this artist.

7 Responses to “Warren Zevon's The Wind”

Donna said...
August 4, 2009 at 7:29 AM

Thanks so much. Never heard of him before. Looked him up on itunes and absolutely love his work. When things like this happen, it's like getting a present at christmas that is unexpected, but very special.


Amber Wollesen, MD said...
August 4, 2009 at 7:45 AM

I feel the same way. I had heard a few of his songs before but didn't know who he was until recently when a friend brought him to my attention. Thanks for your comment.


Paul Clagett said...
August 6, 2009 at 10:18 AM

Thanks for sharing Warren's story and, especially, this song (Keep Me In Your Heart). As a big fan of his for many years I've been aware of the hard life he had, mostly due to his own choices. He certainly lived his life the way he wanted and also died the way he wanted. His final album, The Wind, is arguably his best but certainly his most touching.


Amber Wollesen, MD said...
August 7, 2009 at 7:55 AM

Paul,
I haven't heard a lot of Zevon's other albums but I do agree that The Wind is excellent. What is interesting is how open Zevon was in talking about the choices he made and how that effected his life. Listening to interviews he gave, it seemed that he had some regrets but was able to move through them. Thanks for your comments.


risaden said...
August 8, 2009 at 7:43 PM

This post is featured in this month's Palliative Care Grand Rounds!

http://risaden.blogspot.com/2009/08/palliative-care-grand-rounds-august.html


risaden said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:53 PM

This post is featured in this month's Palliative Care Grand Rounds!

http://risaden.blogspot.com/2009/08/palliative-care-grand-rounds-august.html


Amber Wollesen, MD said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:53 PM

Paul,
I haven't heard a lot of Zevon's other albums but I do agree that The Wind is excellent. What is interesting is how open Zevon was in talking about the choices he made and how that effected his life. Listening to interviews he gave, it seemed that he had some regrets but was able to move through them. Thanks for your comments.