I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Life and Times of Warren Zevon
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I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Life and Times of Warren Zevon

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  1,406 ratings  ·  212 reviews
When Warren Zevon died in 2003, he left behind a rich catalog of dark, witty rock 'n' roll classics, including "Lawyers, Guns and Money," "Excitable Boy," and the immortal "Werewolves of London." He also left behind a fanatical cult following and veritable rock opera of drugs, women, celebrity, genius, and epic bad behavior. As Warren once said, "I got to be Jim Morrison a...more
ebook, 480 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published May 1st 2007)
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maybe biography month was a bad idea.

it's just making me angry at people i used to like. not so much byron - but with him i'm in love with the mythology, and that's the whole point of byron - you know what you're getting into. but it turns out warren zevon was rather unpleasant,too, both in the obvious drunken blackout wife beating way, but also in the name dropping/writing down all the funny things he said that day in his journal like a self-involved teenager that makes me a little queasy/shy.

zevon goes to the doctor b/c he's short of breath and is given two months to live. fear fear fear anger cynicism a return to alcoholism and drug addiction. shit smeared walls, floors littered with porn and empty bottles, and then he hits the studio and records a final album. and dies. jeez. as he wrote in 'life'll kill you':

'The doctor is in and he'll see you now
He don't care who you are.
Some get the awful, awful diseases,
Some get the knife, some get the gun,
Some get to die in their sleep,
At the
I grew up listening to Warren Zevon, bought all his records when they came out, and saw him live several times throughout his career. He is one of my favorite performers. Personal information about Warren was always hard to come by. I knew he had a legendary drinking problem back in the 70's/early 80's and he spent a lot of time getting on the wagon and falling off again. Rarely were there any specifics. This book gets specific about nearly all phases of his life and kind of beats you over the h...more
Diann Blakely
As deliciously exhaustive as this biography remains, even after a second and third reading, you wish Zevon’s process weren’t scanted, and that there were more pages devoted to the formation of his songwriting’s verbal genius and how it has sustained itself as a growing, if still largely underground, influence. “He raped and killed her / Then he took her home,” he wrote in a single line of “Excitable Boy,” satirizing the horror genre, conventional dating mores and male sexuality, including his ow...more
Let me save you the trouble of reading this little missive: Warren gets drunk. Warren does something incredibly stupid and hurts someone very close to him. Warren responds with a sh*t-eating grin and a shrug.

Repeat over and over until he dies. The end.

The risk you run with biographies is that there's really only two ways to respond to them. Upon completion of the book, you either say, "Wow! What a life!" and your enjoyment of that artist's work is enhanced. SOCIETY'S CHILD by Janis Ian is a good example, as is JUST KIDS by Patti Smith. On the other hand, there's the book where you finish and you say, "Woah. What a jerk. What a broken person," and you find yourself struggling to separate the artist's work from the way they treated people and t...more
Annetta Ribken
I'm about halfway through this book, and wow. I have been a fan of Warren Zevon since the late '70s -- his music has had a profound influence on me. I saw an interview of Crystal Zevon in which she stated Brother Z wanted his story told unvarnished, and that's exactly what you're getting here. He was a musical genius, a total asshole and a unique personality. It's a fascinating story about a fascinating artist. I can't wait to see what the second half of the book holds.

I really like the format -...more
Amazing, I must be the only one on this site who loved this book. It really could be my favorite biography. This captivated me from the start and reignited my early interest in Zevon's music, turning me into a current huge fan. Yes, it's not a flattering portrait, but it's a very real and human one. The book not only acknowledges the debauchery of his life (which is what makes these kinds of biographies best-sellers), but really pays attention to Zevon's musical craft and genius. You can really...more
Dan Secor
I would have given this book four stars - I'm a big Warren Zevon fan, and it was well-written - but frankly this book depressed the living hell out of me. Zevon was a train wreck all his life. I remembered reading an interview with him in Rolling Stone years back about how he quit a bad drinking habit (two bottles of vodka, straight, every day), but this book shows his other excesses never really left him. He had tons of very close friends, but for some reason he sabotaged many of his friendship...more
I am a die-hard Warren Zevon fan and have been for many, many years. Someday someone will write a biography of Zevon worth the time to read. I know I am probably even now being excommunicated from the legion of Hammerheads, WZ fans, but so be it. Before he died Zevon turned over his diaries to ex-wife Crystal and instructed her to tell his story warts and all. I wish Ms. Zevon would have decide to include the "all" part of that instruction. This focuses far too much on the dark side of Zevon's c...more
Todd Jenkins
Feb 13, 2008 Todd Jenkins rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Zevon and good songwriting in general
Recommended to Todd by: Michael Wolff
I checked this book out from the library after pianist Michael Wolff mentioned that he had been interviewed for it. I was a huge fan of Zevon's work in the 80s but kind of lost track after a while. After picking up "Mutineer" and "Life'll Kill Ya" on Wolff's suggestion, I kicked myself for not staying on the bandwagon.

That said, this book presents a most compelling picture of Zevon's life. Well, maybe "compelling" isn't quite the right word. It's like a car crash rendered in print; some of the d...more
I almost gave up on this book halfway through. Having been a long time Warren Zevon fan, I knew about the Excitable Boy lifestyle that went along with his musical genius, but I grew tired of feeling bogged down in example after example of how Zevon acted like an ass to all those around him. The anecdotes of circumstances behind songs' compositions and stories about his musical exploits seemed few and far between. It wasn't so much the nature of the negative aspects of Zevon's behavior, it was th...more
P.C. Dettman
​I've been sitting on this book a while now. I started it the day it arrived, but decided to rest it after the first half. Often with rock memoirs there are drugs, there is drink, and there are warnings that it can be difficult material to read. Mostly these warnings are made by pussies, for pussies, and the gruesome parts are edited out. Not so here. In this particular case, I found the warnings appropriate. Some of the most famous and legendary party animals have contributed to this book, and...more
I love Warren Zevon. I think he's just the best. Even when he was alive, his voice sounded kind of like how a ghost might sing - all wiggly and sad and weird and funny. Though he undoubtedly would have been fun to have a drink or two with, I feel bad for the people who had to spend any significant amount of time with him, since, as this biography, not to mention his own lyrics, will often attest, the guy behaved like a drunken asshole most of the time. I simply do not care. He never did anything...more
The problem with reading books about artists, especially musicians, is that you never get to listen to their work without thinking of the story of the human that produced the music. This book, told from the viewpoints of the people who knew him, is an almost horrifyingly vivid tale of what it means to be human, especially a gifted one.

The scrutiny of eighty people exposes all the depravity, weakness, struggle and self-doubt as well as the bond, the uniqueness of the person who was Warren Zevon....more
Rex McCulloch
Two in a row. Gotta stop reading these bios of asshole musicians. I'm usually pretty good at divorcing the artist from the person, but this book was about 85% loathsome human being and 15% sometime-genius. It might not have been so bad if so many of those closest to him hadn't tolerated Warren Zevon to such an extent because he was "clever," or "artistically brilliant," or just famous. The people who speak most highly of him tend to be fellow artists and celebrity friends who didn't have to put...more
I have loved Warren Zevon's music for well over 30 years, and I still cherish the memory of shaking his hand and chatting briefly with him after a solo recital at The Stone in San Francisco back in 1983 or 84. I will always be grateful to David Letterman for introducing his audience to Warren's muse and music. For me "Desperadoes Under The Eaves" will always be the definitive anthem about Los Angeles. Having said all that, by the time one finishes reading this brutally honest account of his life...more
There is not much new learned about him that wasn't already inferred from the songs he wrote. Indeed, many of the events described were all but flagged with epiphanies Warren has, signalling this was inspiration for his next song.

A particular theme throughout was his ongoing frustration that despite the songs he wrote, taking weeks, even years to compose with honesty and real expression, his main claim to fame was "Werewolves of London," a ditty he and a couple of collaborators threw together in...more
If you didn't know it before you'll definitely now it now: Warren Zevon wasn't exactly an angel. In fact, he was downright horrendous -- to himself and to everyone around him. Much of that vile behavior was done under an oppressive cloud of drugs and alcohol that never seemed to fade away. And so as the stories of the Excitable Boy are told from the accounts of his friends and family and peers, it paints one hell of an ugly picture. But that was the point. Warren explicitly told his ex-wife, Cry...more
This is a hard book to rate because I'm a fan of WZ's work, which is not the focus of this brutal bio. Reading this, it's easy to forget Zevon was a prodigy who spent time hanging out with Stravinsky when he was a kid. That he wrote circles around his L.A. peers. That his best songs were almost always self-lacerating confessions. "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" is half a portrait. The bad half.
A must read for music lovers and Warren Zevon fans alike. Even if you are not a Zevon fan, this is a great read.
Crystal Zevon presents this in the form of diary excerpts and interviews with Warren's friends, contemporaries, girlfriends, family and others that encountered him whether briefly or for a lifetime. This is the life of a troubled man and his incredible genius for creating some of the best and most highly respected music of our times.
No matter how incorrigible and difficult Zevon coul...more
Marc Clapp
Of all the Thompson gunners one could write about Warren was the best (that's me attempting to be clever, I'll stop now).

Zevon was and is simply put the most underrated musician in the history of American music. It's a real crime that assholes like Kayne West get to be rich and famous while the man who wrote "Lawyers, Guns & Money" lived in a one bedroom condo. Life will kill ya and it sure isn't fair

The book is great on several levels. Paints a portrait of him but like Walter Isaac's "Job...more
Steph Burton
A different kind of biography this in that it is a very readable account of a not-very-nice person! Crystal Zevon, one-time wife of Warren, has collated interviews, quotes and diary excerpts from all periods of Warren's life and put them together to form a coherent narrative of many voices. This approach gives a very rounded view of the man and the musician and, because each voice only gets a few paragraphs or less at at time, the book zipped past for me. Having previously only known Warren's mu...more
Great and enlightening book for any mega-Zevon fan.
Jim Clinton Slusher
Four stars may be a bit much for this book, but three are definitely too few. You get a picture of Zevon through the eyes and words of his associates, friends and family - and no one holds back. He is not remotely portrayed as a saint There's some interesting narrative about the writing of certaIn songs and albums and those are the parts I liked best. I did also feel I got a vividly real picture of who Zevon was. I would like to have a better picture of his writing and his music, but it's a smal...more
I'm a big Warren Zevon fan and was lucky enough to see him perform twice before he died in 2003. I'd always heard vague rumors of his unsavory past and wild behavior, so nothing in this book really surprised me as it's the sort of typical rock star/addict behavior I'd always imagined he indulged in. Amazing how many beautiful and intelligent women put up with his crap just for a chance to be near him. I was intrigued to learn about his obsessive compulsive behaviors and his agoraphobia, which I'...more
Cormac Zoso
When you read rock-and-roll books as often as I do, you find one overbearing commonality for most of them: They are just not very good. That's the truth of the matter. Most are written on a 3rd grade level and most have glaring mistakes or omissions that even the middle-range fan can spot them and, at bottom, they lack any kind of professional composition or editing. In particular, this is applicable to the "tell-all" subset of this group. Think of "Hammer of the Gods" and you'll understand my p...more
This book was compiled in an interesting way, from mainly oral sources from friends family, people that knew him. He was basically a bit of a selfish wanker, and with some serious ocd patterns too, i felt for his (ex)wife, his kids, his girlfriends and the people he worked with. But then here's the question if we like, love the artist and his work, are they all just grist to the mill? I feel for them, but I'm glad his ex wife produced the book. She had her own agenda of course because she wants...more
I'm a big fan of Zevon's music, so I wanted to read this book but approached it with trepidation. Sometimes it's hard to find out that someone's whose work you admire wasn't that great of a person.

This biography is assembled from the oral and written interviews of dozens of Zevon's family members, musical acquaintances, and a fair number of celebrities from other fields who were his friends. His ex-wife and friend Crystal Zevon provides the central voice and did the compiling. This format worke...more
It says something for this book that I am not a fan of
1. Warren Zevon
2. biographies
3. rock n roll lifestyles
4. 400+ page nonfiction
and yet I read and mostly enjoyed this book. I always at least attempt to read books that I am given as gifts, but I was all ready to pack this one for the book exchange. I idly browsed the first few pages and somehow that turned into learning the entire life story of a musician I have never listened to.
I'll say this, if you ever wanted a manual for how to be a tota...more
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I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life And Times Of Warren Zevon I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Life and Times of Warren Zevon I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Life and Times of Warren Zevon

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