Warren Zevon was a restless, sardonic genius. Born on 24 January 1947, he came to embody the dark side of the music industry’s drinking and drug excesses in the 70s. His lasting legacy is not his wild life, though; as the best Warren Zevon songs prove, it is as one of the most gifted songwriters in modern music.
Though Zevon was noted for his unsettling humour and satirical songs, there is also a vulnerability and longing in his finest ballads which is genuinely touching. His friend and collaborator Bruce Springsteen said Zevon wrote beautifully about “the good, the bad and the ugly”, and described him as “a moralist in cynic’s clothing”.
Death and dying were among Zevon’s favourite topics, and the musician was only 56 when his life ended as a result of lung cancer, on 7 September 2003. Though Zevon said he found life “hard and baffling”, his insights and observations have inspired music fans and musicians alike.
Here, then, are our 20 best Warren Zevon songs.
Listen to Warren Zevon’s greatest tracks here, and check out our best Warren Zevon songs, below.
20: Tenderness On The Block (1978)
Though Zevon was renowned for his black humour and savage wit, some of Warren Zevon’s best songs proved he was also capable of writing delicate songs about love, including Tenderness On The Block, a moving coming-of-age song about a young girl’s first love. which was co-written with Jackson Browne. It is somehow typically Zevon that the song was composed after a wild, drunken night in which he pulled the banister off the stairwell in his house. Browne later said that he could not keep up with Zevon’s fearsome drinking. “I passed out, because I don’t drink like that, but he kept going. When I woke up, the song was finished. He wrote most of it. I started it, and he finished it.” The song appeared on 1978’s Excitable Boy album.