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I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon Paperback – May 6, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 245 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. For those who know them, the brilliant, dark songs of Warren Zevon (1947-2003) inspire nothing short of adoration; for those who don't, this stunning biography of the irrepressible rock 'n' roll singer/songwriter should send them sprinting to the nearest record store. By taking an unexpurgated, oral-history approach to Warren's life, his former wife and lifelong friend Crystal has crafted a sharp, funny, jaw-dropping rock biography that's among the best of the sub-genre. Provocative and unflinching, her account distills Warren's journal entries and the author's exhaustive interviews with 87 family members, business associates, band mates, fellow musicians and former lovers into a chronology ranging from Warren's ancestry to his death, at age 56, from lung cancer. The impetus for the book was Warren himself-he implored Crystal to tell his story and to "promise you'll tell 'em the whole truth, even the awful, ugly parts." The awful, ugly parts turn up often: Warren's addictions (to alcohol, drugs and sex), personal demons (intense obsessive-compulsion and commitment-phobia) and paternal shortcomings (to him, kids were nuisances) all get plenty of play here. But so does Warren's music, for which peers like Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Schaffer offer plenty of insight. This top-notch biography is a must-read for fans, and a highly rewarding read for anyone interested in a close look at the life of a modern rock icon.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Warren Zevon was greatly admired for writing some of the most intelligent and literate songs in rock. Probably best known are the darkly humorous "Werewolves of London" and "Excitable Boy." He was a rock 'n' roll wild man, whose unconventional life his ex-wife Crystal's oral-history-style biography makes as iconoclastic in the telling as it was in the living. Among the tellers are members of Zevon's family, and friends and colleagues including Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bob Thornton, Dave Barry, and Stephen King. They comment on his often dissolute lifestyle, his drinking and subsequent sobriety, his off-the-wall humor, the diagnosis of the inoperable lung cancer of which he ultimately died in September 2003, and, of course, his remarkable songs. His behavior was not always laudable--for example, he was a notorious womanizer--but he remained true to himself. This often searing, humorous, and brutally honest book captures him at his best and his worst. Another appropriate friend, crime novelist Carl Hiaasen, contributes a foreword. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060763493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060763497
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (245 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on May 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Crystal Zevon's "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" is un-putdownable for Warren Zevon fans like me. And I imagine even those unfamiliar with his work will be mightily entertained. I don't think I've read such a revealing rock book since Stephen Davis' Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga, about Led Zeppelin. I remember when Zevon's album "The Envoy" came out in 1982 it seemed to me to be a little thin compared with his previous epic, brilliant records. I had no idea, of course. It turns out Zevon was drinking and drugging himself into near oblivion during the 1970's and much of the '80's. When he emerged from this ordeal for the '90's he had lost commercial momentum and he watched his career dwindle to almost nothing. It's a sad story much of the time, but it's enlivened by Zevon's brilliantly perverse personality. He was called the Dorothy Parker of rock because of his wit, but he was something much tougher: some sort of mutant combination of Hemingway, Raymond Chandler, Randy Newman, and Igor Stravinsky.

Crystal Zevon, his former wife and mother of his daughter, has interviewed many of the closest people to the late musician and has constructed an oral history of his life. Within her narrative framework each person takes turns telling stories in their own words, supplemented by Zevon's surprisingly detailed and hair-raising, candid diaries, and dozens of terrific personal and family photos. It's a similar format to George Plimpton's
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Format: Hardcover
An unusually witty, intelligent, insightful and downright poetic songwriter, Warren Zevon embraced stardom even when it didn't embrace him back--he struggled with various addictions OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), watching his contemporaries achieve fame and hold on to it longer. Zevon watched his early fame with the novelty hit single "Werewolves of London" (the title was supplied by Phil Everly--Zevon was musical director for the brothers during their last tour before their estrangement)gradually dissolve despite releasing a series of terrific albums in its wake. Warren avoided doctors for 20 years (he would see his dentist whenever he had a problem)finally giving in when he found himself short of breath and exhausted after a tour of Canada--but by then it was too late for him.

Written by Zevon's former wife Crystal, the book is a mix of narrative written by Crystal along with quotes from friends, family and fellow musicians that played with and admired Zevon that Crystal interviewed for this book. Zevon could be petty, was a nasty drunk but could also be a good friend to those he loved when he was sober. She has also includes excerpts from Warren's diary as well as illustrations by Mr. Bad Example and personal photos. When Warren found out he was going to die he embraced the potential publicity by asking his agent to exploit it knowing that this would truly be his last paycheck and that his family could benefit from it. He appeared on David Letterman's show (Letterman was a long time fan and Warren appeared with his band during at one point on the show), did multiple interviews and rushed to finish one final masterpiece before succumbing to "the big C". He beat doctors predictions and expectations surviving long enough to greet his twin grandsons.
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Format: Hardcover
Crystal Zevon's 'I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon' (2007) is a harrowing, sad, and eye-opening examination of the life of the late musician whose brilliant songwriting found critical and commercial fame just as the Seventies and the era of the 'California Sound' were winding to a close. Championed early by influential luminaries Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther, Don Henley and Linda Ronstadt (who covered a quartet of his songs at the height of her fame), Zevon was something of a transitional figure as popular music moved towards the rawer edges of punk and new wave.

Ironically, Zevon, whose typically sharp, cynical, and biting songs helped bring an end to the Mellow Seventies, didn't really survive that decade himself, at least not commercially. As 'I'll Sleep When I'm Dead' underscores, Zevon drifted through the next thirty years of his personal and creative life with difficulty, watching the popular audience for his work slowly evaporate while he became overwhelmed with substance, financial, and behavioral problems of astounding scope and variety. Always something of an 'artist's artist,' the acclaim of his industry peers never diminished.

Zevon apparently suffered from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and some type of agoraphobia as well as various kinds of addiction, but few readers may feel these problems excuse his physical, emotional, and verbal abuse towards one woman after another, his expectation that the women in his life were largely present only to respond to his needs, his failure to support his children for extended periods, and the infantile fits of rage he indulged himself in one year after another.
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