Ode To Warren Zevon

Aquarian Weekly 11/6/02 REALITY CHECK

ANGRY ODE TO THE CAPTAIN

Warren Zevon is dying and I’m pissed.

I had to get that out. It’s been festering in me since late August when I heard through someone at his record company that he would not be making our interview date. I’d been looking forward to it since receiving promo material in the mail for his latest album, ironically entitled, “My Ride’s Here.” But there would be no interview, nor the appearances he was due to make in NYC in late September.

Warren ZevonIt was early September when rumblings at Zevon’s publicist offices warned that he might pull out of scheduled concerts due to personal reasons. This became official with the posted announcement on his web site that “Mr. Zevon has inoperable lung cancer” followed closely by an article in the L.A. Times describing his prognosis as months to perhaps weeks to live.

Although having never met Zevon he and I have had many parallels, and not just in satirical literary styles or the penchant for making the “one quick drink with a pal” scenario last for three days. I have seen him perform some fifteen times over the past twenty-five years and oddly had numerous meetings and interactions with people who had either played with him, toured with him, worked his lights, tuned his piano, grabbed a cup of java with him, drove with him to a party, etc.

Seemed there would be plenty of time to meet up with one of my favorite songwriters, and a man for whom I have liberally quoted in this space and in my second book, including the now infamous “More people should listen to Warren Zevon” line in my very first “Chaos in Motion” pieces from the early 90s’. I ‘d even foolishly eschewed a chat with him when he was standing a few feet from me at a bar in Rochester, NY two winters ago, so as to not bug him.

Sure, if there was someone I didn’t need to chase down, when our paths had nearly crossed dozens of times throughout my brief – and his longer and more established – career, it would be Warren Zevon.

Cleaned up, dry as a bone and down to only a few packs a day, Zevon’s work over the past few years had never sounded better. Christ, the man was exercising. This is usually the tolling bell for most, but for Zevon, a man for whom blatantly sadistic metaphor was not lost, it seemed ludicrous.

When these kinds of things mattered, like before I was married and tried to bring some semblance of normality and balance to my life, Warren Zevon’s indestructibility was more than an inspiration. Like Keith Richards or Hunter S. Thompson, there were no mammals on earth that could withstand the force of mortality like the man I had enjoyed calling The Captain.

For The Captain survival was good enough to write about in song and story, black visions of carnivorous women and vicious men feeding on the soulless creation propped up at the piano like a pickled wax figure. Good enough to recall; back from oblivion and leaning into the bar with a shot of rye and a Charles Bukowski Reader by the ashtray looking for something to spark the ol’ muse; something fresh, sinister, dangerous or fucking insane.

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

You betcha.

Zevon dying?

Cancer?

Right, and if I drive along the Jersey Turnpike I might not see the Twin Towers? Sure, like I just turned 40 and I have a mortgage and a Godchild and I’m sitting at the midway truck stop off thirty years of bad road.

Fuck that.

I’m not accepting Zevon’s resignation off this mortal coil. He’s not allowed to go quietly into the good night and all that Dylan Thomas bullshit. This is a colder, blander, less fiery world without demented souls like Zevon. Last year it was Kesey, and now this crap?

Zevon is a true genius in the very definition. There is but one of him and his style, whatever the hell that is, and there will never be another like him.

Quite simply, Warren Zevon is one of only a fistful, and its a small fist at that, of songwriters within the rock and roll era who has even come close to entertaining me on every level, musical, lyrical, humorous, emotional and spiritual. He’s a fucking genius in a world where that term is thrown around much too loosely. Zevon is a true genius in the very definition. There is but one of him and his style, whatever the hell that is, and there will never be another like him.

I understand there are deeper, more human concerns here then how this affects me, but if I can’t think of myself in these dire situations, whom will of think of?

Zevon? That bastard has some nerve leaving the artist coalition like this. There are so few of his wondrous ilk left. Certainly, there are hardly any that I care a lick about or have grown up with or still listen to with any meaning today.

And I know we’re all getting older, and some of our mentors and inspirations and even contemporaries go, but I’m only 40 and Zevon is only 55, and it ain’t fair. Not now. Not ever.

And so here I sit on All Hollow’s Eve writing this maudlin crap and periodically distribute candies to the local kids and I feel like crying. Yeah, I’m a big baby, and boy if this is all that I have to cry about with all the pain and ugliness and suffering going on all over the place, then maybe I should be one super-charged happy camper. But I’m not.

I’m pissed.

For weeks I’ve ignored these feelings of anger, loss, mortality and this sense that even though I’m rip roaring prolific when it comes to whipping up the odd sentence on esoteric things like living in the moment, enjoying every second of life and realizing that you really only pass through this time once, regardless of belief, I cannot truly feel anything. But I do feel a large part of the reason I pound on this infernal keyboard in front me night after night is because of crazed beauties like Warren Zevon.

I love him as much as a man can love another man he’s almost never met.

He’s a kindred spirit and a goddamn poet noir and it is to him I dedicate my ever- prevalent slogan: NEVER SURRENDER.

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