I was listening to an older episode of the podcast Who Charted? with Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilyasack today. Their guest was the great Jimmy Pardo and the episode aired around Halloween of last year. The gimmick with Charted is that they use music and movie charts to get to know their guests. It’s a strange premise but it’s very cleverly done. One chart that they covered was the Top Five most listened to Halloween songs of the season. One of the songs was Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon. Kremer mentioned that he used to go to the same gym as Zevon and that it was sad to watch him get thinner as his health deteriorated. One day he stopped showing up and a few months later he had died.
This harkened my memory back to the very emotional farewell episode that Dave Letterman, a friend and staunch supporter of Zevon’s, had for Zevon shortly before he died. Zevon played three songs, including the gut-wrenching Mutineer, and Letterman conducted the best interview anyone could conduct considering the situation. In the interview, Letterman asked him how life had changed since Zevon’s cancer diagnosis and how is he living his life since. Zevon replied with a light hearted quip, “Enjoy every sandwich”. That was a really beautiful thing for someone to say until the media stuck it on every article and obituary that was written about Zevon. It became the go-to quote for a guy who wrote some of the greatest, most quotable and wryest lyrics of all time (see Excitable Boy for details). It kind of disgusted me because, while it was delivered so off handedly, it seemed to become a cheesy tagline. You could almost see the poster for a biopic: ”Enjoy Every Sandwich: The Warren Zevon Story”. I have a feeling, knowing what I know about Zevon and his dark sense of humor, that he probably would have loathed it.
I don’t like a lot of things about the media or the entertainment industry. This is exhibit #1487 on my list of things that irritate me to no end about how the media portrays famous people and turns them into things they are not in an event to exploit their lives and deaths. One can only imagine the media circus that will come when George Clooney dies. He likely won’t be seen as the tremendous actor that he is, the philanthropist that he gets crap for being, the hard worker, the humanist, the guy who stood up for a grip when David O. Russell bullied the grip for no apparent reason other than he’s a lousy person…nope, he will be remembered as the Hollywood playboy who lived out his life as a bachelor with a drink in his hand, a woman on his arm and who once had a Vietnamese potbellied pig.
So, let’s remember Warren Zevon as he should be remembered. A clever and unique songwriter, an incredible musician (the first musician I saw use the looping technique back in the early 90’s, way before chumps like Howie Day became known for it), a malcontent in the music industry in the best possible way, much like Neil Young, and one of the better live acts I’ve seen. As far as that’s concerned, I just saw him solo acoustic and he blew my mind. Check out the Excitable Boy album. Check out the live Learning to Flinch album. Listen to the lyrics and their expert craftsmanship. Discover a legend. You’re welcome.