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Old 11-12-2002, 10:22 PM   #1
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Enjoy every sandwich

Pray for Warren and his family. And also, download "Mutineer." Truly an amazing song and artist.


Enjoy every sandwich.

Strange yet profound words to live by - from a dying man, no less. Of course, Warren Zevon is no stranger to strange.

You've probably heard the bad news. The offbeat singer-songwriter, best known for his 1978 hit "Werewolves of London," is terminally ill with lung cancer.

"From your perspective now, do you know something about life and death that maybe I don't know?" David Letterman said when Zevon recently appeared on "The Late Show."

"Not unless I know how much you're supposed to enjoy every sandwich," said the 55-year-old rocker.

Just about anyone can howl a few bars of "Werewolves of London." But you'll find a lot more to howl about on "Genius: The Best of Warren Zevon," a 22-track retrospective on Elektra/Rhino Records. It offers a fine overview of Zevon's career, starting with his original version of "Poor Poor Pitiful Me," later a Top 40 single for Linda Ronstadt.

The rest of the best-of includes a veritable rogues' gallery of phantom mercenaries ("Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner"), psychopathic prom dates ("Excitable Boy") and desperate fugitives ("Lawyers, Guns and Money").

Despite the dark subject matter, Zevon's wicked sense of humor dares you not to laugh. In no time, you'll find yourself singing along with his well-crafted melodies, too. Even his most twisted ditties leave the listener with a glimmer of hope. No matter how messed up your life might be, things could be worse. You could be a character in a Warren Zevon song.

"Genius" also showcases his oft-overlooked tender side, which shines on "Reconsider Me," "Searching for a Heart" and other ballads. Too bad the compilation omits one of the most poignant songs ever penned by Zevon (or anyone): "Accidentally Like a Martyr." (It's included on "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead," a two-CD set issued in 1996.)

"The greatest risk for me in my golden years is becoming pious like everybody else. If I can make a little effort to avoid that or put it off as long as possible, I think I will," he told me a decade ago, when he was plugging his "Mr. Bad Example" album - the one with the picture of him puffing a cigarette on the cover.

Zevon was born in Chicago, the son of Russian immigrants. In junior high school, he met Igor Stravinsky. Before Zevon's rock career got rolling in the mid-'70s, he wrote jingles and did a stint as the Everly Brothers' bandleader.

As alphabetical fate would have it, his albums inevitably ended up in the back of the record store, stocked somewhere between Frank Zappa and Z.Z. Top in the last bin. I remember coming across a copy of "Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School" when I was an impressionable teen. The title alone convinced me that this was someone worth getting to know.

But I wasn't completely hooked until I heard "Sentimental Hygiene," Zevon's 1987 comeback after a hard-won battle against alcoholism. There isn't a bad track on there, and one of the best is "Boom Boom Mancini," a hard-hitting ode to the lightweight boxing champ from Youngstown.

Earlier this year, Zevon released his 16th album, "My Ride's Here." It's another keeper, featuring collaborations with journalist Hunter Thompson and novelists Carl Hiaasen and Thomas McGuane.

Zevon performed often in Cleveland, where he had a loyal chapter of fans."Watch out, Bon Jovi!" he shouted during a 1995 gig on the patio of Shooters in the Flats, in the middle of a rough-hewn rendition of "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead." It's one of those tunes cast in an entirely new light by his imminent demise. Ditto much of his 2000 album, "Life'll Kill Ya."

His moving appearance on Letterman's show was enough to make you cry. But Zevon kept cracking jokes.

"You look and seem remarkably healthy," Letterman told him.

"Don't be fooled by cosmetics," Zevon quipped.

During a break, there was a commercial for the new James Bond movie, "Die Another Day." In a statement issued when Zevon went public with his grim prognosis in September, he said: "I'm OK with it, but it'll be a drag if I don't make it till the next James Bond movie comes out."

"Die Another Day" opens Nov. 22. Zevon has weeks, maybe a few months left to live.

He is spending his last days with his two grown children. He also is recording one last album, with VH1 filming the sessions for a documentary.

Zevon sang three songs on "The Late Show," including a devastating version of "Mutineer." The us-against-the-world lyrics could be his epitaph:

I was born to rock the boat

Some may sink but we will float

Grab your coat - let's get out of here

You're my witness

I'm your mutineer

If Zevon's music has meant something to you, drop him an e-mail at zevon@artemisrecords.com. If you have yet to make the pleasure of his acquaintance, pick up any of his albums. You won't be disappointed.

And above all, remember: Enjoy every sandwich.

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Old 11-13-2002, 08:26 AM   #2
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This thread scared me, I thought he'd died.

My mom's boyfriend is a huge fan of his, he wanted my copy of this week's Rolling Stone to read the article. I found myself tearing up reading it myself.

I wonder how many of us could be so brave in the face of what he's facing right now.
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