By Joel Francis
Warren Zevon died today, but like most things in his life, he did it on his terms.
Over a year ago, doctors gave Zevon three months to live. Of course he proved them wrong and stuck around not only to witness his grandsons births, but to write and record his final album and watch it debut in the Top 40 (a feat he hadn’t accomplished in 25 years). Death has a funny way of propelling forgotten careers.
If Mark Twain were a songwriter, he’d have been Warren Zevon. I’d like to think that right now Zevon and Twain are sitting around backstage in heaven smoking huge cigars, drinking brandy and arguing about who has to open for whom.
“When you get Dylan, Neil Young and REM to appear on your albums as sidemen, you come talk to me about headlining,” Zevon says.
“Yeah, well when you write a satire about racism that is still being banned and burned 150 years after publication, you come talk to me about acerbic wit,” Twain retorts.
The two end up laughing and embracing and a little brandy spills on Twain’s immaculate white suit.
“Crap, now I’ve got to go change before I go on. How do you think I’ll look in orange?” Twain jokes.
“Don’t worry, I’ll cover for you,” Zevon says, grabbing a guitar and heading for the curtain. Ninety minutes later Twain appears onstage with Mae West and Jack Lemmon to sing the backing vocals on “Excitable Boy.”
“Who says life’ll kill ya, anyway?” Zevon says, winking at the audience as the curtain falls.