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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

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  2,386 Ratings  ·  273 Reviews
Hardcover, 452 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Ecco (first published April 1st 2007)
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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.

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
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
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
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
Feb 19, 2008 rated it did not like it
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.

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
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
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 -
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
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
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.
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
P.C. Dettmann
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 W ...more
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.
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
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.
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
Jan 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
Sep 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Great and enlightening book for any mega-Zevon fan.
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was surprised to read that Warren Z was such a partier. I know that in his position or if I had gained that fabled glory known to all new rock stars, I would be leading a much different existence myself, and I can't say it would have been pretty. So I try not to judge based on this clear outline of his life's activities and attitudes, and yet I was deeply saddened to read of his thoughtless treatment of other people, particularly his lovers and his children. Those closest to him, seeking his s ...more
Book Club Mom
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Warren Zevon once said, “my career is about as promising as a Civil War leg wound.” These morosely funny words are a great example of the unusual wit in Zevon's lyrics and music. His career took off in the 1970s, with two terrific consecutive albums which featured some of the best music of the time, including Excitable Boy, Tenderness on the Block and The French Inhaler. His genius mind exploded with ideas for songs and he lived the life of a rock star, filled with excesses of drug and alcohol a ...more
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
It was interesting to read about this complex, creative, and wild performer. I liked how the book cut back and forth from Zevon's own journal to quotes from various insiders. It also gave me a peek into the lives of Zevon's closest friends, many of them more commercially successful than him. Jackson Browne really was an amazing friend to Zevon.
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a good read; didn't know he was such a Hunter Thompson/Bukowski sort of guy.
Sep 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Good read if you're a diehard Zevon fan. Wish there was more on his early songwriting years. Lots and lots about his promiscuity.
Dec 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Accidental martyrs and junk culture emissaries, bad luck boys and good time girls
Recommended to Alan by: A library shelving cart
I was a young man—barely a man at all, truth be told—spending the night in my girlfriend's closet-like dorm room in flagrant violation of curfew and university policy, 'way back when in 1981. About 1:00am on a moonless weekend night, the first strains of "Johnny Strikes Up the Band" came blaring from one of the fraternity houses just up the hill.

By the time the singer got to "Werewolves of London," I had figured out which frat house the sound was coming from, and I was calling them despite the h
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“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
“It’s alright. It’s okay if it’s about your ego. Sometimes it’s got to be about your ego. Just know that it is.” 0 likes
More quotes…