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Warren Zevon Songs: 10 Essential Tracks You Need to Know

Warren Zevon songs

Our 10 best Warren Zevon songs list explores the music of the real “Werewolf of London.”

A lot of people hear the name Warren Zevon and say, “Warren who?” But play them ten seconds of the song “Werewolves of London” and they say, “Oh, yeah, him.” What a lot of people don’t realize is that Warren Zevon wrote and recorded a lot of songs that would go on to become hits.

His career spanned over 25 years, working with the likes of Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne. Toward the end of his life, he collaborated with singers such as Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, recording Grammy award-winning songs.

Sadly, about two weeks before he recorded his last album The Wind, in 2003, Zevon was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a terminal form of cancer. He died not long after the last album was released. Here we’ll highlight the top 10 Warren Zevon songs of all time.

Key Takeaways:

  • Warren Zevon was a highly talented singer-songwriter known for his unique blend of rock, folk, and pop music.
  • His career spanned over 25 years, during which he collaborated with renowned artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen.
  • Despite being most famous for “Werewolves of London,” Zevon wrote and recorded numerous other hit songs throughout his career.
  • Zevon’s music often delved into dark themes, love, lost opportunities, and social commentary, showcasing his exceptional songwriting and storytelling abilities.
  • His final album, “The Wind,” recorded shortly before his death from mesothelioma, includes poignant and reflective songs that serve as a farewell to his loved ones and fans.

10. Carmelita (1976 – Warren Zevon)

“Carmelita” is a song composed by Warren Zevon but originally recorded by Murray McLaughlin in 1972. Warren Zevon recorded it on three different occasions, but the master recording appears on his 1976 self-titled album.

The song has since been covered by a variety of musicians, including Linda Ronstadt, who recorded a slightly different version on her 1977 album Simple Dreams. The pair went on to have a long-lasting relationship, with Linda recording a handful of Warren Zevon songs over the years.

9. Accidentally Like a Martyr (1978 – Excitable Boy)

Like a lot of Warren Zevon’s lyrics about love, this cleverly written narrative follows a character dwelling on times and opportunities lost. The track appeared on his best-selling album Excitable Boy, which brought him into the commercial limelight.One of Zevon’s lines from the track would become the title of Bob Dylan’s album Time out of Mind. Leading up to Zevon’s death, Dylan would perform the song during his concerts.

8. Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me (1976 – Warren Zevon)

This song appeared on Warren’s first album in 1976. Many say that this whole album was nothing more than a blueprint for other artists who would cover Warren Zevon’s songs later on. The song is very dark, about a character attempting suicide. Linda Ronstadt’s 1978 gender-altered and cleaned-up version of the track would go on to become a Top 40 hit.

7. Lawyers, Guns and Money (1978 – Excitable Boy)

One of his earliest hits, “Lawyers, Guns and Money” was one the more popular songs on the Excitable Boy album. It talks about some of Zevon’s most written-about topics – drugs, booze, and loose women. It’s about a narrator down on his luck, a recurring theme in a lot of Warren Zevon songs.

6. Excitable Boy (1978 – Excitable Boy)

The closing track on the album Excitable Boy, the song is apparently based on a true story. The catchy melody and familiar lyrics about booze, cheap women and reckless behaviour highlight underlying themes throughout his work.

5. Mohammed’s Radio (1976 – Warren Zevon)

A slightly more optimistic Warren Zevon song, it touches on the daily dread of everyday life but being uplifted by rock ‘n’ roll music, played on a pirate radio station run by Mohammed. The track features backing vocals from his California friends Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, which significantly lifts the chorus.

4. Tenderness on the Block (1978 – Excitable Boy)

Closest to a love song, it tells the story about a young girl who grows up too soon and her father that’s struggling to trust her.  It was co-written and produced by Jackson Browne, Zevon’s producer. Browne recalls:

“We wrote that song the night I came over [responding to Crystal’s call] because he had pulled the banister off the staircase. By the time I got back there, all was calm, and he didn’t remember pulling the banister off the staircase. So, we sat down to work on this song and we obviously didn’t stop drinking, because I wound up drinking enough to pass out and fall asleep. When I woke up, the song was finished.”

3. Disorder in the House (2003 – The Wind)

Throughout his career, Warren Zevon tended to write more hits for other artists than he did for himself. He had no problem with this. He seemed utterly content watching other singers, like Linda Ronstadt, turn his songs into well-known hits.

For this track, recorded with Bruce Springsteen, Warren Zevon would finally get the credit he deserved. The pair’s seamlessly blended vocals won them a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance. Sadly, he died just a couple of weeks after the two recorded the song.

2. Keep Me in Your Heart (2003 – The Wind)

Said to be one of the saddest songs of all time, “Keep Me in Your Heart” was Warren Zevon’s goodbye letter to his friends, fans, and family. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma a couple of weeks before he started recording his last album The Wind.

Co-written with longtime bassist, Jorge Calderón, this Warren Zevon song is literally and figuratively his goodbye letter to all that knew and loved him. Zevon performed the song on The David Letterman Show in 2003 and openly talked about what it felt like to know you were dying.

In an interview with VH1, he discussed the song. “I don’t think anybody knows quite what to do when they get the diagnosis. I picked up the guitar and found myself writing this kind of farewell. Instantly I realized I’d found what to do with myself. On reflection, it might be a little bit of a ‘woe is me’ song, but it made me realize what I was going to do with the rest of the time. It may be the last song on the album, but it was the first song I wrote.”

1. Werewolves of London (1978 – Excitable Boy)

The most popular of all Warren Zevon songs, this was his only Top 40 hit, with the idea originally coming from Phil Everly. Written with guitarist Robert “Waddy” Wachtel, the song is essentially a description of what Los Angeles was like back then.

It features Fleetwood Mac’s Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. Really an inside joke between his under-the-influence friends, the three sing about their nightly haunts in the crazy city of sin.

Warren Zevon Discography

Warren Zevon was an American singer-songwriter known for his unique blend of rock, folk, and pop music. Throughout his career, Zevon released a number of albums that showcased his exceptional songwriting and storytelling abilities. Here is an overview of Warren Zevon’s discography:

  1. “Wanted Dead or Alive” (1969) – Zevon’s debut studio album, featuring a mix of folk and rock influences.
  2. “Warren Zevon” (1976) – His self-titled album includes the track “Carmelita” and showcases his darkly humorous and introspective songwriting. This 1976 album is often considered his debut collection.
  3. “Excitable Boy” (1978) – This album became Zevon’s most commercially successful release, featuring hit songs like “Werewolves of London” and “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” It solidified his reputation as a master storyteller with a unique musical style.
  4. “Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School” (1980) – A critically acclaimed album that explores themes of love, loss, and addiction, with standout tracks like “A Certain Girl” and “Gorilla, You’re a Desperado.”
  5. “The Envoy” (1982) – Zevon’s fifth studio album, known for its political and social commentary, as well as songs like “The Envoy” and “Ain’t That Pretty at All.”
  6. “Sentimental Hygiene” (1987) – This album marked a comeback for Zevon and featured collaborations with artists like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and R.E.M. It includes the track “Reconsider Me.”
  7. “Transverse City” (1989) – An ambitious concept album that delves into futuristic themes and showcases Zevon’s continued exploration of diverse musical styles.
  8. “Mr. Bad Example” (1991) – Known for its dark humor and biting lyrics, this album includes songs such as “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” and the title track “Mr. Bad Example.”
  9. “Life’ll Kill Ya” (2000) – Zevon’s introspective album that reflects on mortality and the struggles of life. Notable tracks include “Porcelain Monkey” and the title track “Life’ll Kill Ya.”
  10. “The Wind” (2003) – Zevon’s final album, recorded shortly before his death. It features deeply personal and reflective songs, including the Grammy Award-winning “Disorder in the House” and the poignant farewell, “Keep Me in Your Heart.”

Warren Zevon’s discography is a testament to his talent as a rocker, songwriter, and musician. His albums are marked by some of the best songs ever created, showcasing Zevon’s exceptional talent and impact on the genre. His unique blend of wit, storytelling, and musical craftsmanship continues to resonate with fans, cementing his status as a revered figure in the world of rock music. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed our top 10 Warren Zevon songs list.

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