Saturday, May 29, 2004

On the Player

I was listening to Uncut Magazine's freebie CD with selections from their top 15 CDs from 2003 for the first time in few months (yes, I really do occasionally listen to music recorded after 1992) and almost had to pull off the road while listening to Warren Zevon's Prison Grove (how do you get that kind of vocal resonance when you're dying of lung cancer?!?). I can't think of any musician deaths that affected me nearly as much as his. I was too young to be too overwhelmed by the deaths of Janis or Jimi or Brian Jones or Jim Morrison or Duane Allman and don't even get me started on Elvis. I cared about performers like Keith Moon and Kurt Cobain, but their self-destructive paths seemed to be destined and while I was saddened and, in the case of Cobain, pissed about all the unheard music that died with him, it didn't affect me all that much. But Zevon...

I don't have a lot of Zevon's stuff in my collection. The hellacious live album from my college days that is unplayable due to the seemingly appropriate beer spills, his collaboration with the Stipe-less R.E.M. (Hindu Love Gods), the Asylum greatest hits and, finally, The Wind. But I can still remember all the words to the parody I wrote in 1980 called Werewolves of Carrboro, the drunken nights singing Mohammed's Radio at the top of my lungs and believing that I'll Sleep When I'm Dead was my own personal anthem (although I was an infant in wild lifestyle compared to Mr. Zevon).

That last statement might mean something - he lived life in a way that he never would have recommended to anyone else, lived it in a way that killed many of the people named at the top of of this post and he fucking survived! It's probably instructive that Keith Richards is another hero and what I've learned from them is not so much to live without boundaries but to know where they ARE - theirs just happened to be way the hell outside of mine.

I obviously didn't know the man - I can only go from what I read and from what was quoted - but I can't imagine anyone facing death (an anything but sudden death) with more humor or more dignity. I can't listen to his cover of Knockin' on Heaven's Door without (literally) crying and laughing at the same time - one final "ain't this fucking great?!" for us all to enjoy. It's a brilliant disc and it manages to not be overwhelmed by all the guests that fought to be on Zevon's final recording. If you don't have it, go buy it. Today. Now.

Additional Note: Also on that disc is Joe Strummer and the Mescalero's Go Down Moses. Joe's death was another one that hit me hard, in different way but still hard. I haven't bought Streetcore yet (I don't buy much these days) but it's at the top of my list - I've heard a few cuts and they are just awesome! I was fortunate enough to see the Clash once (sadly, after Mick Jones was kicked out) and Joe was always for me the embodiment of punk rock. Rock on...

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