August 26: Warren Zevon released his last album The Wind in 2003

warren zevon - the wind (front)

“Timor mortis conturbat me.
It’s from a medieval Scottish poem by William Dunbar,
It means, ‘The fear of death just fucks me up’”
– Warren Zevon (told to The Guardian, and roaring with laughter)

Warren Zevon died in 2003 aged 56, he was noted for his black humour and dry wit; he never had the big commercial success he deserved. He was highly regarded by critics and music lovers (and musicians), you could say he enjoyed a cult following. He should have been big.

“This was a nice deal: life.”
– Warren Zevon

Two weeks before he died of lung cancer, he released one of his best albums, The Wind.

“It’s hard to say if he’s being sincere or darkly witty with his cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” though he manages to make it work both ways.”
– Mark Deming (allmusic)

When diagnosed with lung cancer, he said: “I feel the opposite of regret. I was the hardest-living rocker on my block for a while. I was a malfunctioning rummy for a while and running away for a while. Then for 18 years I was a sober dad of some amazing kids. Hey, I feel like I’ve lived a couple of lives.”

The diagnose did in his own words, lead him into one of the most intense and creative periods of his life. Many of his more famous friend came to lend a hand on the record, including Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, Emmylou Harris, Don Henley, Ry Cooder, Billy Bob Thornthon, Jim Keltner, David Lindley, T-Bone Burnett, Joe Walsh and Dwight Yoakam. None of them taking the show from Warren Zevon, he is so clearly in control of his last creation. It is not a big bombastic farewell, it is a guy who enjoys making a record with a bunch of his friends. It feels better, more right!

Here is a touching documentary about the making of The Wind and Warren Zevon’s last months alive:

Robert Christgau:
“Naturally he fends off death-the-fact the way he fended off death-the-theme–with black humor. “I’m looking for a woman with low self-esteem” is how he sums up the succor he craves, and he finishes off a painful “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” with impatient cries of “Open up, open up, open up.” But “El Amor de Mi Vida,” “She’s Too Good for Me,” “Please Stay,” and “Keep Me in Your Heart” mean what their titles say. Only by hearing them can you grasp their tenderness, or understand that the absolute Spanish one seems to be for the wife he left behind, or muse that while the finale addresses his current succor provider, it also reaches out to the rest of us. Everyone who says this isn’t a sentimental record is right. But it admits sentiment, hold the hygiene, and suggests that he knows more about love dying than he did when he was immortal. A-“

Start with The Wind, then you can get everything else!

The Wind on Spotify:

– Hallgeir

5 thoughts on “August 26: Warren Zevon released his last album The Wind in 2003”

  1. “Keep Me in Your Heart” was a song that expressed my feelings about losing Warren in September of 2003, and I had started grieving already when he appeared on David Letterman’s Late Sow on October 30, 2002; there was a poignant version of “Mutineer” that he performed in a frail state. It is still a tough loss because Warren was a “one of a kind” genius who deserved more attention and commercial success during his career. However, Warren did not die in obscurity with his hit album on the Billboard charts at the time of his death. By the way, “Disorder in the House” was written about the Bush/Cheney White House, and I’m sure that Bruce took a lot of pride in singing such a damning song about a corrupt bunch of election thieves and war criminals.

  2. Whenever I dont really know what to play, I put on Sentimental Hygiene. I am not sure if it ranks among my favourite 10 albums, but for some reason or another I think it might be among the 10 most played.
    Gotten the cred he deserved from his colleagues, but not by the public I think.

    1. I will always love “Trouble Waiting to Happen” and “Bad Karma,” as these have become theme songs for me personally. “Reconsider Me” is also on this album, and it was time for everyone in 1987 to reconsider how great it was for Warren to return after battling alcoholism for the second time.

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