Warren ZevonWarren Zevon was born on 24/01/1947 in Chicago, Illinois. His full birth name was Warren William Zevon. When he was young, he and his family moved to Fresno, California. By the age of 13, Zevon would visit composer Igor Stravinsky's house to study modern classical music alongside Robert Craft. When he was 16, Zevon's parents divorced and he soon quit high school. He moved to New York and to become a folk singer.
Zevon would meet Violet Santangelo at high school. The two of them formed a folk/pop duo called lyme & cybelle. In the group, Zevon took the name Stephen lyme. The group got a record contract with White Whale Records.
In 1966, lyme and cybelle released the psychedelic pop song "Follow Me" as their first single. It reached number 65 on the US charts. They released another single when they covered "If You Gotta Go Go Now" by Bob Dylan. After the release of the second single, Zevon left the band.
Zevon would spend time as a session musician and jingle composer. He would write several songs for The Turtles who were also on the White Whale label.
In 1969, Zevon's song "She Quit Me" was included on the soundtrack for the film "Midnight Cowboy". In the same year, Zevon released his first solo album called "Wanted Dead or Alive". It was produced by Kim Fowley but did not sell well.
In the early 1970s, Zevon toured with the Everly Brothers as a keyboard player, bandleader and musical coordinator.
In 1975, Zevon moved to Spain where he lived and played at The Dubliner Bar in Sitges. The bar was owned by David Lindell, a former mercenary who would co-write the song "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" with Zevon. By September, Zevon had returned to Los Angeles where he shared a place with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. In Los Angeles, Zevon collaborated with Jackson Browne.
In 1976, Zevon released the solo album "Warren Zevon" with Asylum Records. The album was produced by Browne. It also featured Nicks, Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Carl Wilson, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt and members of the band The Eagles. The album was a modest commercial success. Ronstadt would record her own versions of several of Zevon's songs.
In 1977, Zevon went on his first tour which included guest appearances at Jackson Browne concerts.
In 1978, Zevon released the album "Excitable Boy" also produced by Browne. It would receive critical acclaim and popular success. It featured some of Zevon's most popular songs including "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner", "Lawyers, Guns and Money" and "Werewolves of London".
In 1980, Zevon released the album "Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School". It was dedicated to Ken Millar the detective novelist who used the nom-de-plume, Ross Macdonald. Zevon would meet his literary hero Millar at an intervention for Zevon's addictions organised by Rolling Stone journalist Paul Nelson. In the same year, Zevon and Willie Nile appeared on the King Biscuit Flower Hour. Also in 1980, Zevon released the live album "Stand in the Fire" which was recorded at The Roxy Theatre, Los Angeles.
In 1982, Zevon released the album "The Envoy". The title track was dedicated to Philip Habib, US special envoy to the Middle East in the early 1980s. After the song came out, Habib sent him a letter of appreciation on State Department stationery.
In 1983, Zevon moved to the East Coast. Distributor Asylum Records dropped Zevon after "The Envoy" had poorer sales than they wanted. Zevon found about it after reading it in the gossip column of Rolling Stone. The incident caused him to relapse into alcoholism and drug abuse. Between 1982 and 2001, Zevon would occasionally fill in for Paul Shaffer as the bandleader on the tv show "Late Night with David Letterman" and later "Late Show with David Letterman".
In 1984, Zevon checked into a rehab clinic in Minnesota. He would retreat from the music business except for playing a few solo shows. During the period, Zevon collaborated with Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bryan Cook in the band Hindu Love Gods. During 1984, they released the single "Narrator" on the IRS label which didn't chart.
In 1987, Zevon signed with Virgin Records and Berry, Buck and Mills became part of his studio band. In the same year, Zevon released the album "Sentimental Hygiene". It also included contributions from Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Flea, Brian Setzer, George Clinton, Jorge Calderón, Waddy Wachtel and Michael Stipe.
Whilst recording for "Sentimental Hygiene", Zevon jammed with Berry, Buck and Mills in an all-night session. They performed material by artists such as Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and Prince. The recordings would later be released as a Hindu Love Gods album.
In 1989, Zevon released the album "Transverse City". It was a futuristic concept album inspired by sci-fi cyberpunk author William Gibson. The album also featured Richie Hayward, Jack Casady, Chick Corea, Wachtel, David Lindley, Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, David Gilmour and Neil Young. The album didn't sell well and Virgin Records parted with Zevon.
Zevon quickly got a contract with Giant Records. The first album they released together was the Hindy Love Gods album recorded int he "Sentimental Hygiene" sessions.
In 1991, Zevon released the album "Mr Bad Example".
In 1993, Zevon recorded the live album "Learning to Flinch". Also in 1993, Zevon oversaw the music for the revival of the tv show "Route 66". Zevon would often play in Colorado so that he could visit his long-time friend Hunter S Thompson.
Zevon would also serve as musical coordinator and occasional guitarist for the Rock Bottom Remainders. The group included Stephen King, Dave Barry, Matt Groening and Amy Tan, as well as other popular writers.
From 1994 to 1996, Zevon's music was featured on William Shatner's TekWar films.
In 1995, Zevon released the album "Mutineer" which he self-produced. At the time, Giant Records were going out of business and sales suffered as a result.
In 1998, Zevon played on and wrote the liner notes for "Stranger Than Fiction".
In 2000, Zevon released the album "Life'll Kill Ya" on Artemis Records. Sales were good and the album was also well received by critics.
In 2002, Zevon released the album "My Ride's Here". During 2002, whilst playing at Edmonton Folk Music Festival, Zevon felt dizzy and developed a chronic cough. He was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, cancer that affects the pleura. Refusing treatments, Zevon began recording his final album "The Wind". It included guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh, David Lindley, Billy Bob Thornton, Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty, Dwight Yoakam, and others. The TV channel VH1 was given access to film the sessions. In October, Zevon appeared on the "Late Show with David Letterman" as the only guest for the whole hour.
In 2003, "The Wind" was released. It reached number 23 on the US charts.
On 09/09/2003, Zevon died at his home in Los Angeles. Zevon received five posthumous Grammy nominations. "The Wind" won two Grammys.
In 2004, a tribute album to Zevon called "Enjoy Every Sandwich: The Songs of Warren Zevon" was released. Zevon's son Jordan Zevon was the executive producer on the album and performed the song "Studebaker".
In 2005, the tribute album "Boom Boom Mancini" was released.