Mr. Fantasy (mrfantasy) wrote,
Mr. Fantasy

Remembering Warren Zevon

It turns out that Warren was a friend of a friend of a friend of mine. (It's worth mentioning that Warren was a huge mentor to Robin and helped her with her career, at a time when many people wouldn't have felt that they had anything to offer. I'm pretty sure that's the kind of guy he was.)

And that's how I got to meet him back in March of 2000. He was playing at the famous Club Bene in Sayreville, NJ, my wife and yesthattom going with me

Jill Sobule opened for him. (BTW, a cover of Warren's "Don't Let Us Get Sick" is on her newest album.) Jill is, unfortunately, best known for "I Kissed A Girl", and Warren turned it upside down by singing a verse along with Jill. It was classic. I Kissed a Girl is currently to Jill what "Werewolves of London" was to Warren. Let's hope it doesn't stay that way.

Anyway, Warren played. It was him, a guitar, a keyboard, and a harmonica for 2 hours. He played everything you'd want to hear from him (including "Werewolves"), he was rocking, funny, warm, great voice, incredibly expressive. The crowd, though appreciative, wasn't wild and crazy.

It's near the end of the show (I think) when Tom mentioned that Robin knows Warren and that we're going to get to meet him. Whoa. Really? I enjoyed the rest of the set enormously as well. Afterwards, we hung around near the stage for a few minutes and then went back. A few introductions and meeting the bouncer (whom I didn't want to give my name at first, like I was sneaking back there and would get caught, not understanding it was all cool), we were led back to Warren's dressing room.

The hallway back stage had a 1950s vintage bathroom, chipboard walls half-painted. It was a dump. Then the "dressing room". What looked like Frasier's dad's recliner in the corner, filthy shag carpeting, walls painted a dirty mustard yellow, a mirrored wall with a counter about desk height, with cold cuts clearly left over from before the show, half eaten. A cooler filled with spring water and other non-alcoholic drings (Warren having been sober for 15 years.) Warren said hi to Robin, hugged, and then she introduced us. I shook the man's hand, and told him how great the show and his music was. He stated how he felt the crowd wasn't into it (he would later say in interviews that the West Coast crowds understood him better). I said that it seemed that way a little but it was an incredible show nonetheless. He was thankful and warm, we exchanged a few more minutes of pleasantries, and left. I didn't even get an autograph. I was left, however, with a profound sense of the lonliness and drudgery of being a workaday musician, and a little mad that someone as talented as Warren was left in these relatively miserable surroundings, seemingly paying for doing what he loved to do and was called to do, while pop stars live large on no talent. I also got to meet an incredibly humble, and fundamentally sweet guy, who wasn't afraid to say what was on his mind and was a bit self-deprecating. He also wasn't very tall, probably 5 foot 5 max. I never realized that until I met him up close.

All through the last year, whenever I've thought about Warren I've thought about that dressing room--guitar cases against the wall, a bare clothes rod with a few things hung on it, light as if a bare bulb was the only light in the room, and Warren, vulnerable, human. He was there because he had to be there, he was driven to be there, his career and life had brought him there, but he wasn't upset or bitter, just accepting, and wanting to do a good job and make people happy.

If you've seen the VH-1 special about Warren (and if you haven't do it now--it's incredibly moving) you know most of his last days were surrounded by friends and family, in relative comfort despite the pain he must have been experiencing. I'm glad that he wasn't alone, and had the love of those who mattered to him. I'm glad he drifted away in his sleep, peacefully.

I have his music to remember him by--all of his albums are unique and special, and perhaps more so now. If you've never heard anything but "Werewolves" please go buy something of his. I don't care what else you like, you'll probably find something to enjoy about Warren Zevon's music.

"Requiescat in pace, that's all she wrote."

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