Five Reasons Warren Zevon Should Be in the Rock Hall of Fame
Warren Zevon, one of the great singer-songwriters of his generation, has been eligible for Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction since 1994 but had to wait nearly three decades before his first nomination. His 2023 nod arrived 20 years after his death, putting an end to one of the most shocking oversights in Rock Hall history.
Now that he's finally been nominated, we're making a case below for full induction as we run down Five Reasons Warren Zevon Should Be in the Rock Hall of Fame. His dozen albums are enough reason for his entry into the hall, as his famous friends and fans will tell you.
Zevon's list of classic songs ("Poor Poor Pitiful Me," "Werewolves of London," "Lawyers, Guns and Money" and "Keep Me in Your Heart," among them) is endless. Again, just ask any of the many artists – including Linda Ronstadt, whose Zevon covers could fill an album, and Jackson Browne, a frequent producer, collaborator and champion – who've sung his songs over the years or were quick to help him make his timeless self-titled 1976 LP. Zevon was one of the all-time greats.
He Was a Songwriter's Songwriter
Warren Zevon's career dates back to the No. 65 single "Follow Me" in 1966 as part of the duo Lyme & Cybelle. He released his first solo album, Wanted Dead or Alive, in 1970 but it wasn't until 1976 with the arrival of his second self-titled LP that most people started paying attention. By then, he was a favorite singer-songwriter of other singer-songwriters, including Jackson Browne, the Everly Brothers and members of Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. Even singer-songwriter king Bob Dylan was a huge fan.
His Famous Friends Never Stole His Spotlight
... because they knew they were mere guests on his albums. Zevon had earned the respect of such luminaries as Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and members of Eagles long before royalty checks started rolling in for albums like Excitable Boy. And all of them were eager to appear on his records. In addition to the artists above, Zevon's albums included tasteful guest spots from Lindsey Buckingham, Jerry Garcia, David Gilmour, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young.
There Are Hidden Gems on All of His Albums
Even after his commercial prospects dwindled over the years – there were only two Top 100 singles in his career and one Top 10 LP – Zevon's albums continued to be filled with the sharp and funny songwriting that made him an FM radio favorite during the second half of the '70s. Look for "Detox Mansion" and "Splendid Isolation" in the '80s, "Mr. Bad Example" and "Mutineer" in the '90s, and "I Was in the House When the House Burned Down" and "My Ride's Here" in the '00s.
He Handled His Terminal Cancer With Dignity and Humor
In 2002, Zevon was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. That year he made the last of his dozen-plus appearances on David Letterman's TV shows and talked about life and death with candid humor. "I might have made a tactical error in not going to a physician for 20 years," Zevon said. "It was one of those phobias that really didn't pay off." The Wind – Zevon's last album, released on Aug. 26, 2003, two weeks before he died – includes Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." Poignant, yes, but funny too.
He Made One of the All-Time Great Albums About Death
Zevon started work on his last LP soon after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Don Henley, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen helped on a set of songs – mostly original but with a cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" – that, directly and indirectly, addressed his mortality: "Dirty Life and Times," "Disorder in the House," "Please Stay." He left the most heartbreaking one, "Keep Me in Your Heart," for the end. Zevon died less than two weeks after The Wind was arrived in 2003.