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Warren Zevon: “Excitable Boy”

Warren Zevon wrote songs that were unlike any others. Wikipedia starts its entry with the right tone. Zevon, it says, is “noted for including his sometimes sardonic opinions of life in his musical lyrics, composing songs that were sometimes humorous and often had political or historical themes.”

That’s about right. Besides Excitable Boy, he is best known for Lawyers, Guns and Money, Werewolves of London and Johnny Strikes Up the Band.

Splendid Isolation is not as well known, but worthwhile. It is preceded by somewhat forced back and forth with David Sanborn. Skip the first two minutes to avoid the chit chat.

It is typical to quote from the beginning of bios, as I did above. However, in this case this rather moving section of Zevon’s bio. which touches on his death, seems more appropriate. Please excuse the length and the lack of paragraps:

During interviews, Zevon described a lifelong phobia of doctors and said he seldom received medical assessment. Shortly before playing at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival in 2002, he started feeling dizzy and developed a chronic cough. 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). 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, Dwight Yoakam, and others. It has been said that the decision to include “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” was his, much to the dismay of the others in the project, and his recording performance reduced the studio to tears; one part happy, one part sad. 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.

Zevon died in 2003.