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Born in Chicago, Illinois, Warren Zevon’s love of music began with an early fascination of classical music when he became acquainted with Robert Craft and Igor Stravinsky. At age 16, shortly after his parents’ divorce, he dropped out of high school and moved to New York to pursue a career in folk music. There he got his start in a folk-rock duo named lyme & cybelle with Violet Santangelo, but left the act after releasing only two singles. He then became a session musician, a writer of commercial jingles, and a songwriter for artists like the Turtles.
Zevon’s songwriting talent eventually attracted the attention of noted musician, producer and songwriter Kim Fowley (the Beach Boys, Cat Stevens, Gene Vincent), who offered to produce Zevon’s debut album Wanted Dead or Alive. Although this record wasn’t very well received, Zevon’s next self-titled album received rave reviews and saw him recording songs with artists like Bonnie Raitt, several members of the Eagles, and Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac fame. Then in 1978 Zevon achieved rock stardom with the success of his following album Excitable Boy, which produced multiple surprise hits including “Lawyers, Guns and Money” and his most well-known song “Werewolves of London.”
From that point Zevon continued to be a prolific presence in the music scene right up to his untimely death. In the 80s he recorded an album and a set of covers with Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry of R.E.M., and became a regular guest on David Letterman’s light night talk shows the following decade. Even after being diagnosis with a deadly and inoperable form of lung cancer in 2002 Zevon managed to put together one final album titled The Wind (with some help from Tom Petty, Ry Cooder and Don Henley) and see it through to its release before his death the following year. The album received two posthumous Grammy awards for Best Contemporary Folk Album and Best Rock Duo Performance, for “Disorder in the House” with Bruce Springsteen.
Celebrate years of Warren Zevon with us today at 5PM on WERS!