Sunday, January 17, 2010

Poor, Poor Pitiful Him (or, The Self-Destructive Brilliance of Warren Zevon) [book review]

Though it came out a few years back, I only recently got around to reading Crystal Zevon's compelling biography of the late Warren Zevon. It was the last music-related book I read in 2009. Zevon died in 2003, at the age of 56, after being diagnosed the year prior with end-stage mesothelioma lung cancer. This multi-viewpoint biography (with quotes and interview material from over 85 different people, and many excerpts from Warren's diary) does a fantastic job of taking us vicariously into his wild and strange life over the years, and it's sad conclusion. While he led a chaotic and out-of-control life in many ways, he left behind an extraordinary catalogue of albums, full of bitingly sarcastic, dark, and beautiful songs. He was an excitable boy, to say the least.

In addition to reading the biography, I would highly recommend that one listen to Zevon's albums (good discography from here and you can stream all of his albums for free one time here at, and listen to some representative live performances from his career as you are reading the book (not necessarily concurrently, but during the general time period). As to the live shows, I would suggest the following (all available for free at the LMA and authorized by Warren's son Jordan):

Recording #1: Warren Zevon Live at WMMS studio on 1976-10-13 (October 13, 1976)
Recording #2: Warren Zevon Live at The Record Plant on 1978-07-27 (July 27, 1978)
Recording #3: Warren Zevon Live at Tralfamadore Cafe on 1986-06-12 (June 12, 1986)
Recording #4: Warren Zevon Live at 1st Avenue Club on 1990-02-27 (February 27, 1990)
Recording #5: Warren Zevon Live at Wheeler Opera House on 1994-03-06 (March 6, 1994)
Recording #6: Warren Zevon Live at Moore Theater on 2000-04-22 (April 22, 2000)
Recording #7: Warren Zevon Live at King Kat Theater on 2001-07-28 (July 28, 2001)

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