Monday, May 21, 2007
Warren Zevon and the Secret of Life
A few months before he died of lung cancer in 2003 at age 56, Warren Zevon appeared on his old friend David Letterman's show, for an hour devoted totally to Zevon and his music. When Letterman asked if he'd had any revelations since learning of his terminal diagnosis, Zevon thought for a moment, gave that trademark enigmatic smile and said "Not unless I know (now) how much you're supposed to enjoy every sandwich."
The recent months have seen a flood of reissues of Zevon CDs, as well as a book written by his ex-wife, titled I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD, after one of his songs. Just this month, on the New West label, came a new two-CD set called "Preludes," consisting of outtakes, demos and alternate versions of some of his early songs. The second disc is a 1999 radio interview with Zevon conducted by Austin, Texas, DJ Jody Denberg, shortly after the release of Zevon's great acoustic album "Life'll Kill Ya." The record had several reflections on mortality, including the title song and the prayer-like "Don't Let Us Get Sick." It was three years before Zevon would learn about his cancer (asbestos-related mesothelioma), though he was already no stranger to songs about death and dying. During the interview, Denberg asks about his fascination with the topic.
"The fact that life'll kill ya is just that," Zevon says. "It's a fact ... I think you have to spend a fair amount of time realizing that you will be (dead), so that you remember to enjoy everything that you possibly can every minute you're not. You always want to try and tell younger people that, which is very difficult, 'cause they don't really hear it because they feel that life has been imposed on them. And, of course, they're absolutely correct. But still, you want to tell them 'Hey, you could be having a lot of fun.' ... As Snoop Doggy Dogg and my father used to say, 'It's all good'."