Home Read Classic Album Review: Warren Zevon | The Wind

Classic Album Review: Warren Zevon | The Wind

The beloved singer-songwriter writes his own epitaph — and hosts his own wake — with a final album that is easily his most deeply personal, strikingly beautiful work.

This came out in 2003 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Death is hardly new songwriting turf for Warren Zevon. As for his perspective on the terrain — well, that’s another story.

Diagnosed last year with inoperable cancer, the dark-hearted troubadour dealt with it like any composer worth his salt: By writing songs. And while Zevon has made his fair share of dark, moving and tragic music over his 34-year recording career, he has never made one as deeply personal and strikingly beautiful as The Wind.

“I’m winding down my dirty life and times,” he admits with a characteristic smirk in the stock-taking opening cut, and he’s not kidding. Zevon’s illness and its effect on his body, soul, mind and life colour nearly all of these 14 songs, from the anxious roots-rock of Disorder In The House and the emotional alienation of Numb As A Statue to the gnarly, fatalistic blues of Rub Me Raw and the haunting condemned-inmate diary Prison Grove. Even straight-up love songs like She’s Too Good For Me and Please Stay pack a yearning that seems more urgent in the harsh light of Zevon’s shortened reality. But for sheer heart-squeezing, you can’t top the dirge-slow cover of Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, which is pretty much guaranteed to put a tear in your eye by the time Warren hits the first chorus.

The Wind isn’t all a downer, though. The man who wrote Werewolves of London and Excitable Boy lets his signature twisted humour out to play now and again, while the relaxed performances of the VIP guests — including Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Dwight Yoakam, Don Henley, Ry Cooder, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris and David Lindley — give the disc a casual, even celebratory feel. But even if he is ultimately hosting his own wake, Warren remembers to end the party on a heartfelt note: “Keep me in your heart for a while,” he humbly requests as the final chord reverberates. As if there was ever any doubt.