Born the son of a Russian emigre who was a professional gambler and a devout Mormon mother who cared for the family, Warren Zevon’s life took many twists and turns that likely contributed to his cynical songwriting style.
The family moved from Chicago to Fresno where Zevon developed an interest in music. He was introduced to Igor Stravinsky, who befriended the youth, inviting him into his home several times. Zevon retained an interest in classical music, but soon turned his attention to folk rock and departed Fresno at 16 heading for New York to become a rock star.
After having a minor success with a song in the duo lyme & cybelle in the late 60’s Zevon moved again to LA where he got work as a session musician, then as bandleader for the Everly Brothers.
Warren Zevon’s early efforts at a solo career were a flop. One album came in 1969 and it was a failure, and a second album in the early 70’s was never completed. In frustration, Zevon moved to Spain to write and play before returning to LA with new songs. There he moved into a house with two more struggling musicians, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
It was this connection and an earlier relationship with Jackson Browne that got Zevon’s career launched. The pair participated in the next album with a contract secured through Brownes’ endorsement. When Linda Ronstadt covered three of the songs on Zevons’ album it was a final seal of approval.
After his hits of the 70s, Zevon faded from the public eye with his career revived in the 90s by frequent guest spots on the David Letterman Show. By 2002, Zevon was experiencing dizziness and shortness of breath and was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Zevon quickly went to work on a final album and survived long enough to complete the album, but not to see his winning two Grammys for the work in 2004.