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The Warren Zevon 10

Published: 9/7/2013
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Warren Zevon performs live in London in 2000 (Photo by Hayley Madden / Redferns / Getty Images)

Ten years after Warren Zevon's death, we still find the singer-songwriter underrated – and fascinating. For proof, we offer ten unmatchable facts about the life and career of the man who deadpanned his way through "Werewolves of London" and other classics.

1. Zevon wasn't born into a musical family. In fact, his dad was a bookie, and one of his most notorious customers was mobster Mickey Cohen.

2. Zevon himself was musical from a young age. By 13, his junior high school band teacher had introduced him to Igor Stravinsky, who encouraged his interest in classical music. At 16, Zevon quit school and ran away to become a folk singer.

3. Before his solo career took off, Zevon wrote songs for The Turtles and toured as keyboard player for The Everly Brothers.

4. Zevon once roomed with future Fleetwood Mac members Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham – before any of the three were famous.

5. BBC Radio 2 listeners rated the opening line of "Werewolves of London" the best opening song lyric of all time: "I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand, walkin' through the streets of Soho in the rain …"
 

 

 

6. Zevon only cracked the Top 40 once, with "Werewolves of London." Linda Ronstadt reached No. 31 with her cover of his "Poor Poor Pitiful Me."
 

 

 

 

 

7. Not one but two of Zevon's songs are about the death of Elvis Presley: "Jesus Mentioned" and "Porcelain Monkey."

8. In the 1980s, Zevon joined members of R.E.M. to form the supergroup Hindu Love Gods, which had a couple of minor hits on the modern rock charts. R.E.M.'s Bill Berry, Peter Buck and Mike Mills served as Zevon's backup band for his 1987 album Sentimental Hygiene.

9. For two decades, Zevon was a frequent guest and substitute bandleader on David Letterman's late night shows. He called Letterman "the best friend my music's ever had." The day after Zevon's death on September 7, 2003, the Late Show with David Letterman band played his songs throughout the show.


10. After Zevon's diagnosis with cancer, his friend Letterman asked if he had any wisdom to share about living and dying. Zevon's response was his oft-quoted mantra: "Enjoy every sandwich."


 

 

 

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