Warren Zevon, who died a decade ago this September at the far-too-premature age of 56, was a singer, a songwriter and one of the great under-appreciated talents in modern America. But he could also be, as his friends, family and lovers will quickly tell you, a pain in the ass. He was at times intimidating, self-destructive, aloof. “He had tons of charisma, but when he didn’t want people coming up to him, he had charisma in reverse,” his ex-wife Crystal Zevon remembers.
Zevon’s work has often been praised by well known musicians, including Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young. His best-known compositions include “Werewolves of London”, “Lawyers, Guns and Money”, “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” and “Johnny Strikes Up the Band”, all of which are featured on his third album, Excitable Boy (1978). Other well-known songs written by Zevon have been recorded by other artists, including “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”, “Accidentally Like a Martyr”, “Mohammed’s Radio”, “Carmelita”, and “Hasten Down the Wind”.
In September 1975, Zevon was living in Los Angeles, where he roomed with then-unknown Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. There, he collaborated with Jackson Browne, who in 1976 produced and promoted Zevon’s self-titled major-label debut. Contributors to this album included Nicks, Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, members of the Eagles, Carl Wilson, Linda Ronstadt, and Bonnie Raitt. Ronstadt elected to record many of his songs, including “Hasten Down the Wind”, “Carmelita”, “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”, and “Mohammed’s Radio”.
In 1978, Zevon released Excitable Boy (produced by Jackson Browne and guitarist Waddy Wachtel) to critical acclaim and popular success. Tracks from this album received heavy FM airplay and the single release “Werewolves of London”, which featured Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, was a relatively lighthearted version of Zevon’s signature macabre outlook and a Top 30 success.
Warren Zevon died on September 7, 2003, aged 56, at his home in Los Angeles. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean near Los Angeles.