Keep Me In Your Heart ~ Warren Zevon

warren-zevonWarren Zevon was an American rock singer-songwriter and musician. He was known for the dark and somewhat bizarre sense of humor in his lyrics.

Zevon was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Beverly Cope and William Zevon. His father was a Jewish immigrant from Russia, and his original surname was “Zivotovsky”. His mother was from a Mormon family, and was of English descent. They moved to Fresno, California. By the age of 13, Zevon was an occasional visitor to the home of Igor Stravinsky where he, alongside Robert Craft, briefly studied modern classical music. Zevon’s parents divorced when he was 16 years old and he soon quit high school and moved from Los Angeles to New York to become a folk singer.

Zevon turned to a musical career early, including a stretch with high school friend Violet Santangelo as a musical duo called lyme & cybelle (exercising artistic license, the band name eschewed capitalization). He spent time as a session musician and jingle composer. He wrote several songs for his White Whale label-mates the Turtles (“Like the Seasons” and “Outside Chance”), though his participation in their recording is unknown. Another early composition (“She Quit Me”) was included in the soundtrack for the film Midnight Cowboy (1969). (To suit its place in the film, the song was re-recorded as the female-centric “He Quit Me”.) Zevon’s first attempt at a solo album, Wanted Dead or Alive (1969), was produced by 1960s cult figure Kim Fowley but did not sell well. Flashes of Zevon’s later writing preoccupations of romantic loss and noir-ish violence are present in songs like “Tule’s Blues” and “A Bullet for Ramona”. Zevon’s unreleased second effort, Leaf in the Wind, was called by his son, Jordan, “A bullshit money grab by the label”.

During the early 1970s, Zevon toured regularly with the Everly Brothers as keyboard player and band leader/musical coordinator. Later during the same decade he toured and recorded with Don Everly and Phil Everly, separately, as they tried to launch solo careers after their break-up. His dissatisfaction with his career (and a lack of funds) led him to move to Spain in the summer of 1975, where he lived and played in The Dubliner Bar, a small tavern in Sitges near Barcelona owned by David Lindell, a former mercenary. Together they composed “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”.

By September 1975, Zevon had returned to Los Angeles, where he roomed with then-unknown Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. There, he collaborated with Jackson Browne, who in 1976 produced and promoted Zevon’s self-titled major-label debut. Contributors to this album included Nicks, Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, members of the Eagles, Carl Wilson, Linda Ronstadt, and Bonnie Raitt. Ronstadt elected to record many of his songs, including “Hasten Down the Wind”, “Carmelita”, “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”, and “Mohammed’s Radio”. Zevon’s first tour in 1977 included guest appearances in the middle of Jackson Browne concerts, one of which is documented on a widely circulated bootleg recording of a Dutch radio program under the title The Offender meets the Pretender.

Though a much darker and more ironic songwriter than Browne and other leading figures of the era’s L.A.-based singer-songwriter movement, Zevon shared with his 1970s L.A. peers a grounding in earlier folk and country influences and a commitment to a writerly style of songcraft with roots in the work of artists like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Though only a modest commercial success, the Browne-produced Warren Zevon (1976) would later be termed a masterpiece in the first edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide and is cited in the book’s most recently revised (November 2004) edition as Zevon’s most realized work. Representative tracks include the junkie’s lament “Carmelita”, the Copland-esque outlaw ballad “Frank and Jesse James”, “The French Inhaler”, a scathing insider’s look at life and lust in the L.A. music business (which was, in fact, about his long-time girlfriend and mother to his son Jordan) and “Desperados Under the Eaves”, a chronicle of Zevon’s increasing alcoholism.

Over the years, Warren Zevon would have a series of successes and personal crises.  He  hung out a lot with the writers Hunter S Thompson, Stephen King, Dave Barry, Matt Groening and Amy Tan, among others.  He was a avid fan of “hard-boiled” fiction, and much of his song writing reflected that interest.

Around 2002 he and his neighbor actor Billy Bob Thornton formed a close friendship catalyzed by their common experiences with obsessive-compulsive disorder and the fact they lived in the same apartment building. One of his compulsions was collecting identical Calvin Kline T-shirts.

In interviews, Zevon described a lifelong phobia of doctors and said he seldom received medical assessment. Shortly before playing at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival in 2002, he started feeling dizzy and developed a chronic cough. After a period of suffering with pain and shortness of breath, Zevon was encouraged by his dentist to see a physician; he was diagnosed with inoperable peritoneal mesothelioma (a form of cancer associated with exposure to asbestos). Refusing treatments he believed might incapacitate him, Zevon instead began recording his final album, The Wind, which includes guest appearances by close friends including Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh, David Lindley, Billy Bob Thornton, Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty, Dwight Yoakam, and others. At the request of the music television channel VH1, documentarian Nick Read was given access to the sessions; his cameras documented a man who retained his mordant sense of humor, even as his health was deteriorating over time.

Warren Zevon died on September 7, 2003, aged 56, at his home in Los Angeles, California. The Wind was certified gold by the RIAA in December 2003 and Zevon received five posthumous Grammy nominations, including Song of the Year for the ballad “Keep Me In Your Heart”. The Wind won two Grammys, with the album itself receiving the award for Best Contemporary Folk Album, while “Disorder in the House”, Zevon’s duet with Bruce Springsteen, was awarded Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal. These posthumous awards were the first Grammys of Zevon’s thirty-plus year career.

Keep Me In Your Heart

The Wind is the twelfth and final studio album by American singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, released in 2003. Zevon began recording the album shortly after he was diagnosed with inoperable pleural mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the lung), and it was released just two weeks before his death on September 7, 2003. The album was awarded the Grammy award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. “Disorder in the House”, performed by Zevon and Bruce Springsteen, won Best Rock Vocal Performance (Group or Duo). Songs from the album were nominated for an additional three Grammys.

The song, Keep Me In Your Heart, is the last song on the album and is meant as his goodbye.

Shadows are falling and I’m running out of breath
Keep me in your heart for awhile
If I leave you it doesn’t mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for awhile

When you get up in the morning and you see that crazy sun
Keep me in your heart for awhile
There’s a train leaving nightly called ”when all is said and done”
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-li-li-lo
Keep me in your heart for awhile
Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-li-li-lo
Keep me in your heart for awhile

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

Hold me in your thoughts, take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you

Engine driver’s headed north to Pleasant Stream
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

Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-li-li-lo
Keep me in your heart for awhile
Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-li-li-lo
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Keep me in your heart for awhile

  • Audio from the 2003 album, The Wind:
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DJ Allyn

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About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.

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