Crystal Zevon. I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon
New York: Ecco, 2007
Reviewed by T. Hatch
I once heard Garrison Keillor say that the desire to meet a favorite author was like wishing to meet a butcher because one enjoys a particular cut of steak. After reading I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, Mr. Keillor's quip has gained an heightened veracity for me.
Warren Zevon was a songwriter known for pop ditties such as “Excitable Boy,” “Lawyers, Guns, and Money,” “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”, and “Werewolves of London” to name just a few;he was the undisputed king of song noir. As a creator of rock n' roll songs (especially lyrics) he was brilliant. As a human being he was a narcissistic failure.
Zevon's ex-wife Crystal cleverly lets this story reveal itself. The book is a chronologically arranged series of witness statements and journal entries that serve as both oral history and narrative. From Zevon's contact with Igor Stravinsky in adolescence until his death in September 2003 he is obsessed with the self-indulgence of sex, drugs, and rock n' roll as a vehicle to celebrity with all its vapid trappings.
As someone who inadvertently performed a cover of “Excitable Boy” the day of Zevon's death and prior to that had purchased his music in record, cassette tape, and compact disc form since the late 1970s I would that I might have averted my gaze as the butcher cased the sausage.