I’m not sure how I missed this piece, from five years ago, about supremely complicated story of Warren Zevon – a deeply flawed person who wrote some of the best music ever about deeply flawed people.
It’s a sprawling article that covers a lot of turf – too many
In an old Late Show episode from the ’90s, when Zevon was guesting as bandleader, David Letterman asks Zevon to play “Desperados Under the Eaves,” which he had never performed on the show. Zevon demurs, suggesting that he needs an orchestra backing him to do the song justice. Maybe he just didn’t want to play his big hymn about L.A. on the opposite coast from that “beautiful, sensual morgue.” Either way, Dave never was able to convince Warren to play it for him.
The best song can’t ever be your favorite song, because the best song belongs to everybody, whereas a favorite song belongs only to you. Goldsmith goes with “The French Inhaler,” a telling choice for a songwriter — it boasts a parallel narrative that references Zevon’s bitter break-up with the first love of his life and mother to Jordan, Marilyn “Tule” Livingston, and the controversy over Norman Mailer’s 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe. It’s the sort of song — sophisticated without making a big deal about it — that professionals wish they had written.
Favorite but not “best”? Probably a three way battle between “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”, “Lawyers, Guns and Money” and “A Certain Girl”.
The rebooting of Zevon’s reputation – from untouchable to secular saint, in the two decades since he died – fills a lot of the article, and it’s fascinating, and a little bit of a blast down memory lane to the days when he was one of the most alcoholic-y alcoholics around:
One of the most haunting passages from I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead concerns “Reconsider Me,” Zevon’s most poignant love song. (Given how much Zevon labored over his lyrics, the use of “reconsider” seems especially crucial.) Crystal Zevon recounts how Warren showed up at her place at some point in the mid-’80s, before he got sober, to play her the song. In spite of everything, they were thinking about giving their marriage another go.
Their daughter, Ariel, was excited to show her daddy her report card and a drawing she made for him. But when he walked in, he ignored Ariel, instead fixating on Crystal as he played her his beautiful love song. The little girl looked on, quietly devastated.
It’s an illuminating and fascinating read if you’re a fan. And I am.