|BMI singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, best-known for such quirky hits as "Werewolves of London," "Excitable Boy" and "Lawyers, Guns and Money," died in his sleep on Sept. 7 at his West Hollywood home. Zevon was diagnosed last summer with mesothelioma, a rare type of terminal lung cancer. He was 56.
Given only three months to live, Zevon passed up initial cancer treatment and headed to the studio to complete what would be his final album, The Wind. Infamous for his dark humor and fascination with death and dying, he faced his own mortality by writing the critically-acclaimed album as a goodbye to his friends and family. Released this August, The Wind debuted at #16 on the Billboard Top 200 chart and featured guest appearances by friends and admirers including Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Dwight Yoakam, Joe Walsh, Tom Petty, Jackson Browne and others.
Born in Chicago to Russian immigrants, the classically trained pianist turned to pop music and the guitar, making his mark in Los Angeles as a commercial jingle writer, a bandleader for the Everly Brothers and songwriter for the Turtles when his 1969 debut album, Wanted Dead or Alive, failed to pay the bills. Although he was not well-known to the general public, Zevon was big on the LA music scene and his second album featured long-time friend and producer Jackson Browne, as well as guest stars such as Stevie Nicks, Don Henley and Bonnie Raitt. The self-titled record also included the song "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me," which Linda Ronstadt later covered and made a hit in 1977. His next and most commercial success was 1978's Excitable Boy, which peaked at #8 on the Billboard charts. He continued to record throughout the years up until his final release this summer.
Zevon, who was the sole guest last October on the "Late Show With David Letterman," was asked if he had learned anything about life and death since his diagnosis, to which Zevon answered: "How much you're supposed to enjoy every sandwich."
Zevon is survived by his son Jordan, his daughter Ariel, and recently born twin grandsons.