Sunday, January 23, 2011

Warren Zevon Should Be 64 Today, Goddamn It

Note: Warren Zevon's date of birth was 1/24/47. This post went up a day early. Stupid typing fingers. Carry on.

I'm not a big fan of Judd Apatow, and I'm no fan at all of Adam Sandler, but there's a moment in their movie "Funny People" that really moved me. It's when Ira Wright, played by Seth Rogen, is flipping through an iTunes playlist he's made for dissipated comedian George Simmons, played by Sandler. At this point of the movie, George believes he's terminally ill. The two are bantering back and forth, joking about the inappropriateness of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" and a selection from "Dirty Dancing."

Then Warren Zevon's "Keep Me in Your Heart" comes up. And suddenly, nothing's funny any more, not in the face of that beautiful song written while Zevon was dying from mesothelioma, a kind of lung cancer he believed might have come from playing among the carpet remnants in his father's store when he was a child.

With no dialogue, Rogen and Sandler play the moment perfectly. Faced with Zevon's croaky baritone and poignant lyrics, they're overwhelmed by the song's urgency and with just a few glances convey how it cuts too close to the bone.

OK, boys, now you've got my respect.

I don't think there's a late 20th-century American rock singer/songwriter who speaks to me as deeply as Warren Zevon. He lived hard, screwed up, made a comeback, died too young and was always underrated. I've written about him before,  and I don't intend to get all "I bought 'Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School' on vinyl, man!" today.

But if you're unfamiliar with the man's work or know him only from the fun-but-overplayed "Werewolves of London," there's a huge catalogue of great songs by him, just waiting for your discovery. If you're a long-time fan, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Either way, check out some of the clips below.

Excitable Boy

Lawyers, Guns & Money

 Part #1 of Zevon's Last Appearance on Letterman

My Shit's Fucked Up

Keep Me in Your Heart

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