Before taking a break to read the last Harry Potter, I finally dug into this biography of the great Warren Zevon ...
and, since finishing it, I've been playing a lot of Zevon CDs to remind me what I loved about the guy.
It's basically an oral history assembled from interviews by Zevon's ex-wife Crystal (along with excerpts from Warren's journal). And "I'll Sleep" is certainly an unvarnished look at Zevon -- the drinking, the drugs, the fights, the guns, the chronic infidelity, the meanness and selfishness to many, the closeness and warmth with a few.
The book would have been better served by an index and some closer checking of names. (Boudleaux Bryant appears as "Boodle O'Bryant," for instance.) But it certainly covers all sides, in exhausting detail, naming a lot of names albeit it somewhat selectively. (Girlfriends like Kim Lankford and Eleanor Mondale are identified by name, but one semi-known GF is identified only as a Philadelphia DJ; judging from other accounts, that's Anita Gevinson, who a couple of years ago was reportedly working on her own book about her life and her famous beaux.)
Crystal Zevon also serves as one of the voices in the book, as do his son Jordan and daughter Ariel, and they don't hide from the pain Warren could cause. When he knew he was dying, Warren ended 17 years of sobriety with a deep fall back into boozing; on his last Christmas Eve, he was drunk -- as well as smoking around his pregnant daughter.
Yet we've all done bad things in our life; I have a list of unforgivable acts I've committed. So, as with so many artists, there comes a point with Zevon where you have to separate the person from the art. Hence the playing of the CDs.
They don't excuse or forgive a single thing that Warren Zevon did, of course. But they include admirable work across the years, not only the great early songs but later things like "I Was in the House When the House Burned Down," "My (Bleep)'s (Bleep)ed Up," "Life'll Kill Ya" and one that always gets to me: "Keep Me in Your Heart." I could take my epitaph from that one.