Warren, [Rest In] Peace
(On the Passing of the Old Ones)
Photo Courtesy of Gena Rankin
You may only know of the late singer/songwriter Warren Zevon who passed away recently at age 56 through his novelty hit "Werewolves of London," but there was much more than that one-riff throwaway in the man's work spanning nearly 4 decades.
I am sitting up alone at night - everyone else has long since gone to bed - and reflecting on life and death. I'm a night owl in a world that demands "early to bed, early to rise" compliance - and as such, often sleepwalk the day away. I wasn't a huge fan of Zevon's - his songs were sometimes hit or miss - but I did appreciate much of his output. His wry, sardonic look at modern life was often filtered through the pain in his own life: a turbulent upbringing with a professional gambler father who moved the family constantly, his parent's divorce when he was 16, and his later well-documented struggles with alcohol and drug abuse.
I don't know every Zevon release, but my personal favorite was always 1987's "Sentimental Hygiene" - which featured guests Bob Dylan, Neil Young and George Clinton, along with REM (minus Michael Stipe) backing him on most songs. The album was panned by critics at the time for being too sarcastic, but I find his dark humor to be right on the mark. "Boom Boom Mancini" took on the brutality of life as shown through the "sport" of boxing; while "Even a Dog Can Shake Hands" skewered dishonesty in the music (and all) industry. But Zevon's sharpest barbs were always self directed as in "Detox Mansion" in which he mocks his stay in the Betty Ford Clinic, where he does his own laundry and rakes leaves with celebrities like Liza and Liz.
Went digging through the old cassettes and could not find the aforementioned recording, but did exhume 1989's "Transverse City" - a fairly uneven, yet interesting "concept" album concerning a Blade-Runner-ish world of the future(?) Unusual in his canon - he uses synthesizers (in a somewhat dated effect) - painting a frightening picture of a chaotic, impersonal world where consumerism has run amok, and the powers that be have - in their infinite wisdom - "moved the moon." Certainly not his best work, but a worthy foray from a man who ponders serious things like "entropy" within a pop music format.
The world is quiet now. Another songwriter has gone to sleep. And I feel like another piece of my life is gone as well. The entropy that breaks everything in this world down and consigns it to the void has won again, and we have lost another voice to the darkness and silence. I pick up my guitar and strum the chords and sing the simple lines from "The Heartache:"
The risk you run
The chance you take
When you love someone
And the sorrow
For the lonely one
When the heartache comes
Shadows falling in the noonday sun
Blue feeling to the maximum
And I feel better.
Past, present & future
misguided ramblings of the MusiCurmudgeon
Stroll through the vaults of a diseased mind!
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