12

Sep 11

Warren Zevon: “Keep Me in Your Heart”

The Wind

A fitting final album

It occurred to me over the weekend that I’d missed the 8th anniversary of Warren Zevon’s passing (Sept. 7). Now that’s not a date I usually make a point of remembering, but then again, I didn’t have a blog before this year to do anything about it anyway. So seeing as I noticed the date just a few days afterward, it seemed suitable to pay tribute to Zevon today, even if I am a few days off.

Despite the fact that Zevon came from the same California scene that brought us such luminaries of dreck as The Eagles and Jackson Browne, he was cut from a completely different cloth. Zevon had dark, satiric undertones running through most of his work, and although his 1976 album Warren Zevon was produced by Browne, even slick production couldn’t hide the intelligence, sarcasm, and wit of the subject matter. He wrote a number of songs that are better known as hits by other artists (“Poor, Poor Pitiful Me,” by Linda Ronstadt, for example), and had a number of songs, such as “Werewolves of London” and “Lawyers, Guns, and Money,” that became staples of FM radio. His first three major label albums (which doesn’t include his debut album in 1969, which he thought little of) — Warren Zevon, Excitable Boy, and Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School — are all excellent.

Sidelined through the mid-’80s by dealing with his alcoholism, he came back strong in 1987 with the great, hard-rocking Sentimental Hygiene. It remains one of his best albums, with some of his strongest songwriting, great singing, and excellent musical backing throughout from Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry of R.E.M. The rest of his career was filled with both good and second-rate albums, all the while being mostly ignored by the music-buying public (including myself, to be honest about it . . . after 1989’s Transverse City, I stopped noticing when his new albums came out). And then, in 2002, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer usually related to contact with asbestos — he was inoperable by the time of his diagnosis, and he refused treatment that would have incapacitated him, preferring instead to live the rest of his life with dignity. He recorded one final (and very good) album, The Wind, that was released in late August of 2003, one year after his diagnosis, and within 2 weeks of its release, he passed away.

The final song on the album was “Keep Me in Your Heart.” Considering all that he went through in that final year, it’s a fitting end to a career full of great music, and anyone who appreciates his music will certainly do just as he asks in the song. Knowing that his own end was near, the song’s lyrics are especially heartbreaking:

Sometimes when you’re doing simple things around the house
Maybe you’ll think of me and smile
You know I’m tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for awhile

These wheels keep turning but they’re running out of steam
Keep me in your heart for awhile

2 Comments

  1. Judy K says:

    Dave, how do you find out all this information about artists? It’s amazing. These lyrics are indeed heartbreaking. Watching all the footage of 9/11 and thinking of my own dad’s short battle with cancer makes me wonder how many other people would express these same thoughts if they only had the chance or the words. I need a tissue.

    1. Dave Gershman says:

      The song stirs up a lot of feelings, and you’re not alone in those who can’t hear it without getting at least a bit choked up. And I agree, it’s the fortunate few who can express those types of feelings eloquently…and have the opportunity to get that out to other people.

      As for my information, I apparently have a large part of my brain reserved for what some (e.g., my wife) might consider useless music-related facts — but of course I do a bit of fact-checking on the Internet as well to confirm details that I don’t feel certain about.

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