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.
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Top 10 Warren Zevon Songs
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.
It was 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 songs 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 the 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 guy 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 behavior 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 produced and co-written with Zevon’s producer, Jackson Browne. 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.
This Warren Zevon song is literally and figuratively his goodbye letter to all that knew and loved him. He 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.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our top 10 Warren Zevon songs list.