Z is for Warren Zevon

Photo from http://www.kctunes.com

(Drum roll, please…)  The final day of the April “Blogging from A to Z Challenge” is here!  With a theme of writers (authors, poets, essayists, novelists), you’d think Emile Zola would be my only option?  Wrong!  I was smart to include songwriters and lyricists.

Warren William Zevon was born in 1947 to a Jewish father and a Mormon mother.  So you know this kid is going to be something special.  He studied classical music under Igor Stravinsky.   After quitting high school, moving to New York, and trying to make it big, he ended up working mainly as a session musician.  By 1975, he returned to Los Angeles and roomed with then-unknown Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.  He collaborated with Jackson Browne and produced his first major-label album, with contributions from Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, and members of The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac.

“Werewolves of London.”  “Lawyers, Guns and Money.”  “Poor Poor Pitiful Me.”  And, of course, “Excitable Boy.”  Who else could write a hit song about a juvenile sociopath’s murderous prom night?

On David Letterman’s show in October 2002, Zevon admitted to a lifelong fear of doctors, asserting he hadn’t seen a doctor in 20 years.  After a period of constant shortness of breath, Zevon told Letterman that it was his dentist who finally convinced him to see a physician.  Zevon was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.  He refused treatments and instead began recording his final album, The Wind.

It was during that Letterman show that, when asked by Letterman if he knew something more about life and death now, Zevon offered his insight on dying: “Enjoy every sandwich.”

Warren Zevon died on September 7, 2003, aged 56, at his Los Angeles home.  The Wind went gold in December 2003 and Zevon received five posthumous Grammy nominations, including Song of the Year for the ballad “Keep Me In Your Heart.”

Most of the available videos are poor quality, so just listen:

T is for James Taylor

Photo from jamestaylor.com

John Mayer has called him “the blueprint” for singer/songwriters.  “Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon” was the first album I ever owned, and I’m sure I played the grooves off the vinyl.  A lot has been written about the five-time Grammy Award winner: the drug addiction, his marriage to Carly Simon, the house on the Vineyard, summers at Tanglewood.

On growing up in North Carolina (Morgan Creek), Taylor said, “I tell my kids that we were pre-TV and there was a lot of empty time there, slow weekends when you just walked into the woods and found whatever you could to kill time.  There was this long, uninterrupted time to let your imagination grow.  I believe that was an important part of whatever creative life I’ve had.”

About his drug addiction, he said, “I’m lucky to be here.  I’m lucky that I didn’t die, or that I didn’t hurt somebody else more than I did or do more damage than I did.  I should have died about five times.  Overdoses, mostly.  Or traffic accidents, or being at risk because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

You know the hits: “Fire and Rain,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Shower the People.”  So many good songs.  It’s hard to choose a favorite, but this one is at the top for me (backed by the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, you’ll see Taylor’s wife Kim Smedvig, the blonde in the light blue sweater):