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Starred Review. For those who know them, the brilliant, dark songs of Warren Zevon (1947-2003) inspire nothing short of adoration; for those who don't, this stunning biography of the irrepressible rock 'n' roll singer/songwriter should send them sprinting to the nearest record store. By taking an unexpurgated, oral-history approach to Warren's life, his former wife and lifelong friend Crystal has crafted a sharp, funny, jaw-dropping rock biography that's among the best of the sub-genre. Provocative and unflinching, her account distills Warren's journal entries and the author's exhaustive interviews with 87 family members, business associates, band mates, fellow musicians and former lovers into a chronology ranging from Warren's ancestry to his death, at age 56, from lung cancer. The impetus for the book was Warren himself-he implored Crystal to tell his story and to "promise you'll tell 'em the whole truth, even the awful, ugly parts." The awful, ugly parts turn up often: Warren's addictions (to alcohol, drugs and sex), personal demons (intense obsessive-compulsion and commitment-phobia) and paternal shortcomings (to him, kids were nuisances) all get plenty of play here. But so does Warren's music, for which peers like Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Schaffer offer plenty of insight. This top-notch biography is a must-read for fans, and a highly rewarding read for anyone interested in a close look at the life of a modern rock icon.
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Warren Zevon was greatly admired for writing some of the most intelligent and literate songs in rock. Probably best known are the darkly humorous "Werewolves of London" and "Excitable Boy." He was a rock 'n' roll wild man, whose unconventional life his ex-wife Crystal's oral-history-style biography makes as iconoclastic in the telling as it was in the living. Among the tellers are members of Zevon's family, and friends and colleagues including Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bob Thornton, Dave Barry, and Stephen King. They comment on his often dissolute lifestyle, his drinking and subsequent sobriety, his off-the-wall humor, the diagnosis of the inoperable lung cancer of which he ultimately died in September 2003, and, of course, his remarkable songs. His behavior was not always laudable--for example, he was a notorious womanizer--but he remained true to himself. This often searing, humorous, and brutally honest book captures him at his best and his worst. Another appropriate friend, crime novelist Carl Hiaasen, contributes a foreword. June Sawyers
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