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

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  3,041 ratings  ·  319 reviews
When Warren Zevon died in 2003, he left behind both a fanatical cult following and a rich catalog of dark, witty rock-n-roll classics that includes "Lawyers, Guns, and Money," "Excitable Boy," and the immortal "Werewolves of London." He also left a trove of misadventures and anecdotes, a veritable rock opera of drugs, women, celebrity, high times, and hard ways. As Warren ...more
Hardcover, 452 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Ecco (first published April 1st 2007)
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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karen
Nov 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfictions
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.
...more
brian
Nov 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
...more
J.K. Grice
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, bio-memoir
I don't even know where to start with this book. I've been a huge Warren Zevon fan for years. So was David Letterman, and Warren often filled in for Paul Schaffer when he as absent. Zevon was also the only personality that Letterman ever devoted an entire show to, after his passing.

Anyway, I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD showcases the troubled history, the musical genius, and the upside of Zevon's life and songwriting. I liked hearing from his friends Jackson Brown, Waddy Wachtel, Bonnie Raiit, and Br
...more
Bob Mayer
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoy some of his music. I always find it interesting to learn about creative people and their process. I respect Warren for telling his ex to have people tell the truth about him. We need more of that.

You learn a lot about the people commenting on him as you do about him. Bruce Springsteen comes of as very flat.

The artist community of the time is inspiring-- I doubt that exists these days when everything is a corporation. One thinks he should have stayed in Spain-- Roland the Thompson Gunner
...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
Stiv_Matters
Jun 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Charlene
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
I have no idea how much of my rating is the result of Zevon's biography as told in this book or the fact that my son asked me to read with him so we could discuss. I suspect that I would have thought it was a mediocre book. However, after exchanging literally 100s of text with my son as we read each chapter, listened to the songs, and watched videos, this somehow became one of my favorite reading experiences.

The book is pretty confusing emotionally because Zevon is such a narcissistic sadists b
...more
Dan Secor
May 05, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Daniel Polansky
Constructed from interviews and scrap of Zevon’s journal, this is as down and dirty as you’re going to get – every petty rivalry, debauched episode, every misbehavior of a brilliant artist with some very serious character issues. Despite which, Crystal Zevon manages an enormously impressive even-handedness, particularly given that Warren seems to have beat the hell out of her a couple of times. A ravenously engaging read, the best rock and roll biography I ever read, hands down.
D.
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
CD
Oct 03, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Serious Warren Zevon Fans
Somehow, I have this weird feeling that Warren isn't sleeping even now. Too much going on in his head for there to be any solitude.

A story shocking in the page after page of details, even for those familiar with his story, of his debauchery and unsocial behavior.

It is missing much if any insight into the motivation behind Zevon's genius unless we just write it all off to that fine line that in some separates genius from madness.

Anecdotes sprinkled through the book add some substance and on occ
...more
Kyle
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
more accurately 3.5 -- took me a long time to finish this -- don't know why but i have some theories -- #1 i guess is it wasn't what i would term compelling, but #2 would be that i didn't want it to end either -- i always respected zevon though before reading this i wouldn't have called my self a huge fan -- i am now -- i am glad i familiarized myself with his life and more of his music than i had before -- quite an enigma -- one of those guys who is his own worst enemy -- at times hated him, lo ...more
Cormac Zoso
Apr 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Annetta Ribken
Jan 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
David Fox
Nov 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books, reviewed
Warren's Weird, Wacky, Warped, Wondrous, Wicked, Wasted World

Within the confines of our celeb saturated universe where every peccadillo is scrutinized under a microscope, it was not surprising to me that Zevon's ex would write a no holds barred biography on her somewhat famous, cult favorite former husband. What did surprise & luridly fascinate me was that Zevon was a bigger creep than I thought possible. I mean this guy emerges a total, complete jerk. Okay, perhaps I'm being a little too harsh.
...more
Jeremy
Sep 27, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Todd Jenkins
Feb 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jay
May 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
I became a fan of Warren Zevon’s music when I was in high school and Werewolves of London came out. His “Excitable Boy” songs appealed to the teen boy in me, reading Soldier of Fortune magazine. And his earlier “Warren Zevon” album appealed to me through intelligent lyrics and pop sound. I became a big fan after reading the Rolling Stone cover story on his life and his alcoholism and intervention. I keep a copy of that 30+ year old story – it showed Zevon as intense and the act of an interventio ...more
Jeff
Nov 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Rex McCulloch
Apr 22, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Byron
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
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
Kim
Jun 26, 2010 rated it did not like it
Only because of my respect for Warren Zevon as a writer and performer did I finish this book. Aside from the fact that this is just an utterly self-serving testimonial to the supposed martyrdom of Crystal Zevon, it is unenlightening, boring, repetitive, disorganized, hardly edited and lacks any content with regard to Zevon's artistic history. By the use of the "testimonial snippet" form of presentation, there is no narrative and no unifying force to the book whatsoever. You can imagine how the r ...more
Murray
Dec 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
The more I read this, the more it grew on me. I never really knew much about Warren Zevon, and this book was filled with one rock n Rollin' escapade after another. Although it hints at Zevon's creative process at times, I would have liked to have read more. The witnesses- and Zevon's diary entries- reveal vey honest depictions of a troubled man who knew how to write songs and live hedonistically. And, man, he sure had a lot of girlfriends.

I loved reading the book with Spotify nearby so I could l
...more
Jerry Oliver
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Heart wrenching, expansive memoir told through Zevon’s own words via his journal entries, interviews with his friends and associates and narration from his former wife Crystal. A fascinating story but I can’t say it was exactly uplifting and inspiring except when it came down to his shear musicality and artistic independence. A gifted but very troubled and complex personality who suffered OCD, alcoholism and sex addiction, while possessing an almost shamanistic literary, and musical wisdom. Some ...more
Kenneth Starcher
Jan 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Going into this book, I was a bit apprehensive. I knew Warren Zevon lived a wild life, and I was afraid the book might change my opinion of him and his music. Quite the opposite happened! Warren Zevon was a fascinating individual and an immensely talented artist. This book was exquisitely constructed in such a way that it felt like a documentary, told through interviews and stories by those who new Warren throughout his life. This book is a must for any Zevon fan.
Dkolacinski
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The excitable boy

The wind blows, the werewolves howl, the good, the bad , the ugly. Tears and scotch , Chinese menus . Told by many who saw and didn't see.
...more
Charles Haywood
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To the extent you have heard of Warren Zevon, it is probably because David Letterman devoted an entire episode of "Late Night" to him when Zevon was dying, in 2002. That appearance shined up Zevon’s star, which had faded greatly since his glory days in the 1970s. It was not the mere fact of Zevon’s appearance, it was his sardonic humor about his own looming death from mesothelioma, combined with the fact that he was going down like a man, refusing any treatment and instead finishing his last alb ...more
Kris
Apr 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed some of Warren Zevon's music but I didn't realize just how much of it and how many artists that I love, that he was connected with. But that's not why this book received five stars.

The book is written in a series of anecdotal paragraphs from different people in Zevon's life. In some cases, one story will be told from the different perspectives of all the people involved in a story. This more personal form of story telling makes you feel the more immediate impact of what was happening.
...more
Jim Clinton Slusher
Mar 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Ethan
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I love biographies that aren't afraid to show both the good and the bad of the people they portray. Although this book sometimes veers towards nostalgia (not surprising, given that many of the people interviewed were friends of Zevon and they are very forgiving of his faults) it still offers a fairly well-balanced view of a very complex person. Warren Zevon's story is fascinating, and it's kind of sad that his legacy in popular music consists of a single song, "Werewolves of London," while the b ...more
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Psychological thrillers that will leave your head spinning. Cold cases, detectives hot on a trail, unreliable narrators, and a dash of poison...
150 likes · 87 comments
“CRYSTAL ZEVON: On our first night in our new apartment, we decided to celebrate with Warren’s favorite meal at home. I made pot roast cooked in cognac-based onion soup. Warren got dressed up in his one white dress shirt and when he tasted the pot roast, he grabbed a fistful, jumped up on the countertop, ripped off the buttons to his shirt and proceeded to rub the meat all over his chest. A couple nights later, we went to Roy Marniell’s place and had another pot roast dinner and “Excitable Boy” was born.” 1 likes
“Our job isn’t to turn our bulb down to make the person next to us more comfortable. Our job is to turn our bulb up and give the next person permission to do the same. Warren did that.” 0 likes
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