It’s no secret that I love Warren Zevon’s music. I love his poetry, his sense of irony and the heartbreak you can feel in a lot of his songs. A few years ago I dipped my toe in the pool of the Zevon Fan World, but even before his death I decided it wasn’t necessarily for me. I love the man’s music. I was lucky enough to see him in concert once and I was heartbroken when he died.
But he was a person. A complicated person with a hard life. His songs are my friends; he was not. I’ve read several accounts by those who knew him. Most were glowing, but a few painted a picture of someone I didn’t care to spend time with. I decided all those years ago that it was best to love the parts of Zevon which he chose to share with everyone–those parts that are in the songs.
I’ve read several reviews of the new book by Crystal Zevon, and as much as I’m sure she and Ariel and the grandkids could use the cash, I’m afraid I’m not buying this book. I don’t know that I have any need to read about endless drug binges or sexual conquests. I’m sure those things all happened, of course. I’m also sure there were days where the all-too-human Zevon was a hideous ass to the people around him. Having had more than my share of Hideous Assery days myself, I think everyone’s entitled to their own spates of ugliness. Fortunately for most of us, those ugly days and bitter actions aren’t necessarily recorded for public consumption. (Unless you’re a blogger…)
One of the most troubling ‘shocking revelations’ I’ve come across in reviews of the book is the fact that Zevon reverted to his alcoholic drug binge days during his bout with terminal cancer. The shock for me isn’t that he did those things. Rather, I’m shocked with the disapprobation Crystal Zevon has for that behaviour. Granted, I’m not the man’s ex-wife so I don’t feel “cheated” out of spending that time with him. But I’d like to think that if I had a spouse or friend who was dying of a hideously painful disease I wouldn’t really mind if he popped some pills or swilled some vodka.
Liking celebrities is a hard thing. Most people who choose a spotlit life seem to have a lot of difficulties with mustering decency. They are cruel to those around them on a daily basis, they are arrogant, they are are lonely. Human connection on a basic level seems hard for them and I think that’s why they choose a path of public adulation. (Granted, most of my frame of reference for this is Bette Midler’s character in Beaches so what do I know?) I decided years ago that if I really found a work which spoke to me on some level, be it Zevon’s music, JK Rowling’s books or Francis Coppola’s movies, I’d do better to ignore all information about the people themselves and just focus on their creative output.
Freaky Irony Update: Just listened to a snipped of ‘Accidentally Like a Martyr’ off the Preludes album. A line from the song not used in the album version sticks out:
The greedy just get greedier and the vulnerable get burned.
I can’t help but think that the Murdoch group, responsible for publishing such a salacious memoir, might find that a fitting epitaph.