Friday, January 8, 2010

Keep Me In Your Heart



A lot of people have never heard of Warren Zevon.  Most that do know only his song “Werewolves of London.”  But more discerning music fans know Zevon has a long trail of albums that span from the early 70’s through 2003.  Some songs were harsh, some were melodic, some were funny and many were very dark.  He was kind of an acquired taste.

He had a brief renaissance in the mid 80’s, but most of his catalog barely registered on the sales charts.  You really had to seek out his music if you wanted to hear it.

In 2002, Zevon was diagnosed with an inoperable lung cancer and given 6 months to live.  He immediately went into the recording studio and began writing songs and working on what would be his final and best album, “The Wind.”  
  
I didn’t know about any of this at the time.  I’d heard on the news that he’d died, but that was it.
 
Sometime in 2004, I was sitting around flipping channels and I came across a VH-1 special about Zevon’s last album.  It seems that once the word got out that Zevon’s final project, his music business buddies showed up en masse to contribute to the album.   Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmidt, Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakum, Tommy Shaw, Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty, Jackson Brown, David Lindley and Jim Keltner all came to sing, play and say their goodbyes.

The show was just fascinating, as it chronicled not only the creation of the album but the last months of Warren Zevon.  He was given 6 months to live, but he lived 6 months past that, working on his project the whole time.  He lived just long enough to see the birth of his twin grandsons.

The music itself was incredible, exploring the spectrum of emotion as one expires.  The whole special was just wrenching to watch (when it wasn’t hilarious).  When it was over, I logged into Amazon.com immediately to buy the CD.  And the day that VH-1 special became a DVD, I got that too.

So why am I talking about Warren Zevon and “The Wind” today?  The answer is my previous post.  It was my buddy Brill that turned me onto Zevon back when we were in high school.  In my mind, Brill and Zevon are intertwined.  I wasn’t there for Brill’s last days, but I could watch Zevon’s.

There was one song that was especially affecting.  “Keep Me in Your Heart” was the first song he wrote for “The Wind” but the last one recorded.  He sang it in his living room, on the couch, because he was too weak to make it out to the studio.  I always imagine it as being from Brill, to the wife he left behind.  It took months before I could listen to the song without choking up.

During the time of his illness, Zevon went on the Letterman show for one last performance and in the course of their conversation with his old friend, he said that one of the things he’d learned by having a fixed amount of time left, is you had to “enjoy every sandwich”. 

After Zevon’s death, a number of his friends came together and recorded a tribute album of his songs, and that was the title:  “Enjoy Every Sandwich: The Songs of Warren Zevon.”

Through this post and the last, I guess that’s what I’m trying to say.  We never know what’s around the corner.  Let your loved ones know what they mean to you, and find the joy in your life as your travel through it.  In other words, enjoy every sandwich.
Now, as of the next post, I’ll be done with this depressing stuff and will resume my customary jockularity.

10 comments:

  1. Sometimes you have to let the depressing stuff out. I'm not very familiar with Warren Zevon's music, but I love the story of how he dealt with that diagnosis.

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  2. There's a reason why I named the file that I keep all my writing in "Therapy."

    Zevon was an original. I recommend looking him up on YouTube. There's a lot of good stuff there.

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  3. Thanks for the background. I'm going to get bored with the music I picked for my upcoming belly-dancing performances pretty quickly, so searching for some of Zevon's music ought to give my ears (and hips!) a break.

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  4. Not sure what kind of tempo you're looking for, but I'd recommend "Disorder in the House" from The Wind. Good upbeat number with Springsteen on guitar, laying down a couple of killer solos.

    Other possibles might be "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" and "Bad Karma". For laughs, check our Mr. Bad Example. And there's another one called "The Hockey Song (Hit Somebody) that I know you'd like. If you have any trouble finding these, I'd be happy to email them to you.

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  5. I watched both the VH1 special and the appearance on letterman and was touched by his story and his attitude. And I agree that The Wind was really great.

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  6. I was vaguely aware that he was going to be on Letterman, but I didn't really appreciate the gravity of the situation at the time. Plus, I'm never up late enough to watch.

    From the clips I saw on the VH-1 thing and what's been on YouTube, I really regret not being more proactive about it at the time.

    The Wind is the most powerful album I've ever heard. It's like a musical blog of your own death. You can't listen to it and remain unmoved.

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  7. Yes, this is very depressing but necessary to be reminded of!!

    We all need to live life this way. Enjoy each and every moment and be present so we don't miss anything.

    ps. I would have liked to have missed football this weekend.

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  8. Sorry about your Pats, GUY. I was actually rooting for them. For a change...

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  9. I love this album. Dan and I still can barely listen to it without tearing up. It reminds us of 1. his aunt Beth, who died of cancer when I was pregnant with Flora and 2. our baby boy, whom we lost in 2003.

    So, yeah, right there with you.

    ciao, rpm

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  10. Yeah, it took me quite a while before I could just listen to it and enjoy it. It's just so intimate and so powerful. And ultimately helpful.

    I'm so sorry about your baby. You have my best wishes on that, even 7 years down the road.

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