Warren Zevon - provocative comedian
Warren William Zevon was born in Chicago, Illinois, to the family of Beverly Cope and William Zevon (born Zivotovsky), a Jewish immigrant who had come from Russia in the 1920s.
William was a bookie who handled bets and dice games for the notorious Los Angeles mobster Mickey Cohen, and and was known in Chicago's underworld as Stumpy Zevon. Ironically, his wife Beverly came from a religious Mormon family.
Warren was an occasional visitor to the home of Igor Stravinsky
where he briefly studied modern classical music. So, at age 16, when his parents divorced, he quit school and moved to New York to become a folk singer.
In 1978, Zevon released his first album Excitable Boy (produced by his friend and colleague Jackson Browne), containing provocative songs that would later achieve a cult status and influence popular musicians: "Werewolves of London", "Lawyers, Guns and Money", and "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner". The album was a success, with some of the compositions appearing in the Top 30 chart.
He was also active as songwriter for other singers, creating some of the most controversial and politically charged compositions of the time, including "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" (which became a huge hit when performed by Linda Ronstadt), "Accidentally Like a Martyr" and "Mohammed's Radio".
Critics universally praised his bold and unique style, some even calling him "the hardest rocker to ever come from Southern California". And Rolling Stone placed Zevon as one of the four most important artists of the 70s, together with Neil Young, Jackson Browne, and Bruce Springsteen.
Zevon had a lifelong phobia of doctors and therefore seldom received medical assessment. This had grave consequences...
In 2002, shortly before going on stage, he started feeling dizzy and developed a chronic cough. During a medical check, he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer, associated with exposure to asbestos. Refusing treatments he believed would incapacitate him, Zevon instead began recording his final album, The Wind, which includes guest appearances by close friends including Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh, David Lindley, Billy Bob Thornton, Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty, Dwight Yoakam etc.
Zevon told the media that he just hoped to live long enough to see the next James Bond movie, and he accomplished the goal: even more, he lived long enough to see the birth of his grandson and the release of his final album The Wind in 2003.
Warren Zevon died on September 7, 2003, aged 56, at his home in Los Angeles, California. In two months The Wind was certified gold by the RIAA, and Zevon received five posthumous Grammy nominations...
"Warren Zevon's last waltz". The New York Times (Nytimes.com). 26 January 2006
"Ancestry of Warren Zevon". Wargs.com
"Warren Zevon: Biography". Rolling Stone