to the Captain
Zevon is a true genius in the very definition
Zevon is dying and I'm pissed.
I had to get that out. It's been festering in me since late August
when I heard through someone at his record company that he would
not be making our interview date. I'd been looking forward to
it since receiving promo material in the mail for his latest album,
ironically entitled, "My Ride's Here". But there would
be no interview, nor the appearances he was due to make in NYC
in late September.
It was early September when rumblings at Zevon's publicist offices
warned that he might pull out of scheduled concerts due to personal
reasons. This became official with the posted announcement on
his web site that "Mr. Zevon has inoperable lung cancer"
followed closely by an article in the L.A. Times describing his
prognosis as months to perhaps weeks to live.
never met Zevon he and I have had many parallels, and not just
in satirical literary styles or the penchant for making the "one
quick drink with a pal" scenario last for three days. I have
seen him perform some fifteen times over the past twenty-five
years and oddly had numerous meetings and interactions with people
who had either played with him, toured with him, worked his lights,
tuned his piano, grabbed a cup of java with him, drove with him
to a party, etc.
Seemed there would
be plenty of time to meet up with one of my favorite songwriters, and
a man for whom I have liberally quoted in this space and in my second
book, including the now infamous "More people should listen to
Warren Zevon" line in my very first "Chaos in Motion"
pieces from the early 90s'. I d even foolishly eschewed a chat
with him when he was standing a few feet from me at a bar in Rochester,
NY two winters ago, so as to not bug him.
Sure, if there was someone I didn't need to chase down, when our paths
had nearly crossed dozens of times throughout my brief - and his longer
and more established - career, it would be Warren Zevon.
Cleaned up, dry as a bone and down to only a few packs a day, Zevon's
work over the past few years had never sounded better. Christ, the man
was exercising. This is usually the tolling bell for most, but for Zevon,
a man for whom blatantly sadistic metaphor was not lost, it seemed ludicrous.
When these kinds of things mattered, like before I was married and tried
to bring some semblance of normality and balance to my life, Warren
Zevon's indestructibility was more than an inspiration. Like Keith Richards
or Hunter S. Thompson, there were no mammals on earth that could withstand
the force of mortality like the man I had enjoyed calling The Captain.
For The Captain survival was good enough to write about in song and
story, black visions of carnivorous women and vicious men feeding on
the soulless creation propped up at the piano like a pickled wax figure.
Good enough to recall; back from oblivion and leaning into the bar with
a shot of rye and a Charles Bukowski Reader by the ashtray looking for
something to spark the ol' muse; something fresh, sinister, dangerous
or fucking insane.
"I'll sleep when I'm dead."
Right, and if I drive along the Jersey Turnpike I might not see the
Twin Towers? Sure, like I just turned 40 and I have a mortgage and a
Godchild and I'm sitting at the midway truck stop off thirty years of
I'm not accepting Zevon's resignation off this mortal coil. He's not
allowed to go quietly into the good night and all that Dylan Thomas
bullshit. This is a colder, blander, less fiery world without demented
souls like Zevon. Last year it was Kesey, and now this crap?
Quite simply, Warren Zevon is one of only a fistful, and its a small
fist at that, of songwriters within the rock and roll era who has even
come close to entertaining me on every level, musical, lyrical, humorous,
emotional and spiritual. He's a fucking genius in a world where that
term is thrown around much too loosely. Zevon is a true genius in the
very definition. There is but one of him and his style, whatever the
hell that is, and there will never be another like him.
I understand there are deeper, more human concerns here then how this
affects me, but if I can't think of myself in these dire situations,
whom will of think of? Zevon? That bastard has some nerve leaving the
artist coalition like this. There are so few of his wondrous ilk left.
Certainly, there are hardly any that I care a lick about or have grown
up with or still listen to with any meaning today.
And I know we're all getting older, and some of our mentors and inspirations
and even contemporaries go, but I'm only 40 and Zevon is only 55, and
it ain't fair. Not now. Not ever.
And so here I sit on All Hollow's Eve writing this maudlin crap and
periodically distribute candies to the local kids and I feel like crying.
Yeah, I'm a big baby, and boy if this is all that I have to cry about
with all the pain and ugliness and suffering going on all over the place,
then maybe I should be one super-charged happy camper. But I'm not.
For weeks I've ignored these feelings of anger, loss, mortality and
this sense that even though I'm rip roaring prolific when it comes to
whipping up the odd sentence on esoteric things like living in the moment,
enjoying every second of life and realizing that you really only pass
through this time once, regardless of belief, I cannot truly feel anything.
But I do feel a large part of the reason I pound on this infernal keyboard
in front me night after night is because of crazed beauties like Warren
I love him as much as a man can love another man he's almost never met.
He's a kindred spirit and a goddamn poet noir and it is to him I dedicate
my ever- prevalent slogan:
© James Campion November 2002
children are not safe anywhere, at any time..."
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