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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Crystal Zevon

An oral biography chronicling the life and times of singer-songwriter Warren Zevon brings together conversations and interviews with Stevie Nicks, Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, the Everly Brothers, and other friends, colleagues, … see full wiki

Author: Crystal Zevon
Genre: Fiction Themes, Biography & Autobiography, Music, Family & Relationships, Business & Economics
Publisher: Harpercollins
Date Published: May 01, 2008
1 review about I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life...

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

  • Jul 29, 2008
Rating:
+3
Pros: A unique look into a tortured mind.

Cons: Will put Zevon in a very negative light to his fans.

The Bottom Line: A difficult read for someone who loves his music. At the same time it is hard to put down.

On September 7th 2003 the music world lost one of its most unique talents. Warren Zevon was a genius that for many was an acquired taste. A raspy voice combined with lyrics that were witty and deeper than most writers, Zevon never gave in to those who thought he should try and be more commercial. He lived for his music (and his vices) and never compromised for anyone.

This book is not your ordinary biography. I don't think it could be with such an unordinary man. Instead of the normal narrative, this book is totally made up of snippets from those who knew him, along with entries from his diary.
The biography also has a voyeuristic quality to it. As if you are looking at something you really shouldn't. Or maybe it is like driving past the car wreck and having to slow down and take a look.

They do follow a chronological order but only give you a glimpse into the tortured world of Zevon. People like his wife Crystal who put this book together, band members, friends such as Billy Bob Thorton and Mitch Albom all made contributions to the book. Many have fond memories but it is the dark side of Warren that makes this book so disturbing. His alcohol and drug abuse, his treatment of women and the people around him all make for a picture of a man who though very talented, could not be classified as anything other than a bastard.

Reading this book makes it hard to listen to his music with the same anticipation that I had before. It is a difficult thing to separate the man from his music. When I read about how he didn't give credit to those who helped him write songs, it makes a lasting impression when I hear them. When I hear a song that was written about one of his love interest, I think of the hell that he put her through.

When I read about how he abused his wife and refused to see his kids for so long, I have to wonder if the songs I hear were worth it. But it seemed as the music was all he had for so many years. (In later times he did sober up and renewed his association with his kids.) I know that many a great piece of work has come from the depths of a tortured spirit but with Warren it seemed to go way beyond that.

Through all this there is still the music that he produced. The stories about how much of it was made are very interesting. I love to find out what is behind the music I like and this gives you a real insight into the writing of many of the Zevon classics. This is one of the good parts of the book because it forces you to think about what you have learned as you listen to his music.

This book also gives you insight into how hard it is to make in the music world. Even when he had hit singles and albums in the charts, he never made the profits that you associate with other rock and roll acts. Many times he had to tour just to pay the bills. Later on, even though his albums were critically acclaimed, the sales were never that great.

The tales of life on the road and how Warren behaved on these trips would make bands like Motley Crue cringe. Zevon truly lived the life of a rock star no matter what it did to those around him. The main thing I got from a lot of these tidbits is, he really didn't care what he was doing to his friends and family. He was the ultimate megalomaniac. Everything was about Warren. Everything had to center around him. This is the saddest part of his whole life.

You can't argue about the music that he produced. Other than some minor bleeps along the road, (I ripped the album Life'll Kill Ya in a review) Warren created some of the most intriguing music around. His live album "Standing In The Fire" is considered one of the best live rock and roll albums ever. Yet not many have ever heard it, or purchased it. It is one of the few albums that I have in vinyl, cassette, CD and the expanded version as a digital download.

But that is the difference between the public Zevon and the private one. You can love what he does with music but his life story is not something to be proud of for sure. I can still see the shy little guy on the Letterman show and it doesn't fit with the one that I have been reading about on these pages.

As you near his illness and the making of the final album the story is both heart wrenching and maddening. How he deals with death is about the same way he dealt with life. I suppose you can't expect someone to change their ways even then, but it cast a very unflattering light on a man whose music meant so much to so many.

For some reason I get the feeling after reading it that Warren was never truly happy. There are people like that. They either don't want to be happy or just don't know how to be happy. Warren was that kind of person.

So that brings us to the crux of the problem with this book. If you a Zevon fan, it might just make you wish you never heard his music. Or at least make you feel differently about it. If you are not that big of a fan, then this book is a tale of a person that no one should really give a damn about.

I can only hope that Warren has found peace now. For years he has sung about death and looking back, it almost seemed that he knew what was coming. And for some strange reason I think he looked forward to it. Reading this book, more than a few times I got the feeling he was trying to speed up the process of living to get to the part of dying. But the sad thing is I can imagine him thinking that finally he has shown us just how important he was.

Other related reviews:

Excitable Boy-http://www.epinions.com/content_124146716292

The Wind-http://www.epinions.com/content_109710184068

Life'll Kill Ya-http://www.epinions.com/musc-review-44A0-DCE9929-39E0BDDC-prod5

Standing In The Fire-http://www.epinions.com/musc-review-632A-3A870F0-397F5A3D-prod6







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