Enigmatic singer/songwriter Warren Zevon is suffering from lung cancer that has advanced to an untreatable stage. Since receiving the diagnosis last month, the artist has been spending time with his children and is using his time writing and recording new songs. “I’m OK with it,” the always satirical Zevon said in a statement, “but it’ll be a drag if I don’t make it till the next James Bond movie comes out.”
Zevon recently spoke exclusively to Billboard’s Chris Morris about his illness. Their conversation will appear in the Billboard issue dated Sept. 21, and due out tomorrow (Sept. 13).
His recording career in 1969 with the release of “Wanted Dead or Alive” (One Way). After finding some success as a songwriter, Zevon followed it up in 1976 with the Jackson Browne-produced “Warren Zevon” (Asylum). The set spent just two weeks on The Billboard 200, peaking at No. 189, but it included the song “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” later a hit for Linda Ronstadt.
Zevon found solo success in 1978 with “Excitable Boy,” also produced by Browne, and the hit single “Werewolves of London.” The album reached No. 8 on The Billboard 200, while the song peaked at No. 21 on the Hot 100. His only other Hot 100 hit, the No. 57 entry “Certain Girl,” came from his fourth album, 1980’s “Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School.” He has also found acclaim with such tracks as “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” and “Mr. Bad Example.”
The latest of Zevon’s dozen studio album releases is “My Ride’s Here,” issued earlier this year via Artemis. Featuring contributions from Irish poet Paul Muldoon, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and author/sometimes songwriting partner Carl Hiaasen, the set debuted at No. 22 on Billboard’s Top Independent Albums chart and No. 25 on the Top Internet Albums tally.
On Oct. 15, Zevon’s career will be surveyed by Rhino Records on “Genius: The Best of Warren Zevon.” The 22-track compilation touches on nearly all of his album releases, and includes a cover of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret” recorded by the Hindu Love Gods, a group that consisted of Zevon and R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, Bill Berry, and Peter Buck. In 1996, Rhino/Elektra released the comprehensive 44-track box set “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.”
Zevon is slated to appear on CBS’ “The Late Show With David Letterman” in October in support of the release. It is unknown if his diagnosis will scotch those plans to visit with the late night talk show host, who made a cameo appearance on “My Ride’s Here.”
Here is the track listing for “Genius: The Best of Warren Zevon”:
“Poor Poor Pitiful Me”
“The French Inhaler”
“Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner”
“Interlude No. 1/Play It All Night Long”
“A Certain Girl”
“Looking for the Next Best Thing”
“Boom Boom Mancini”
“Searching for a Heart”
“Things To Do in Denver When You’re Dead”
“Mr. Bad Example”
“I Was in the House When the House Burned Down”