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September 8, 2003


When I heard the announcer

When I heard the announcer on 1010 WINS this morning begin saying "Singer/songwriter...." I knew what had happened. Warren Zevon, who was the kind of songwriter who doesn't seem to exist anymore, had died, giving in to the cancer we heard about a year ago. He approached death as he approached life -- with dignity, calm, awareness and a sense of humor.

I think I was in junior high when I first heard "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner", and it taught me something about telling stories. Of his generation, maybe only Tom Waits is as adept at conjuring characters and settings. But Zevon's striaghtforward, emotional side was equally compelling: "Reconsider Me" captures the heartache of a ruined relationship with a directness and lack of sentimentality appropriate to an impossible situation. A bit ironically, the song appears on his brilliant record Sentimental Hygiene, which is so good, you almost assume it's a greatest hits album, except it hangs together so well.

One thing that I always think about when I think about Warren is his guest appearances on Letterman. He filled in for Paul S. while he was off shooting Blues Brothers, and I think Letterman was always surprised at how funny Warren was. I think Dave was expecting him to just sit there and play songs, but Warren would inevitably toss off an unsolicited joke or one-liner, and Dave would laugh before he even knew what happened. It's this creative energy that pervades his music, and makes him as memorable as the characters he wrote about.

posted by adm at 12:29 PM | #


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