Warren Zevon was a musician - a rock singer-songwriter who died of pleural mesothelioma at the ripe young age of 56. He had a rollicking case of OCD, a sardonic sense of humor that some have described as “mordant,” and a life-long dislike of doctors. The latter probably accounts for his premature demise.

He has been gone almost fifteen years now, but some of his songs still bring a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.

I am in no way an expert on his work. I don’t own a lot of his music, Life’ll Kill Ya being the only complete album I have out of the fourteen out there. But that one gets the job done.

When you listen to Life’ll Kill Ya, it’s easy to get the impression that he wrote it after he discovered that he was terminally ill: It is packed with musings on death and gallows humor. But that impression would be wrong, despite the masterful (and obviously NSFW) tune “My Shit’s Fucked Up,” possibly the best description of being afflicted with a terminal illness I have ever heard.

Well, I went to the doctor 
I said, “I’m feeling kind of rough” 
“Let me break it to you, son - 
Your shit’s fucked up.” 
I said, “My shit’s fucked up? 
Well, I don't see how...” 
He said, “The shit that used to work - 
It won’t work now.”


Then there’s “Porcelain Monkey,” a satirical take on a Elvis that also has a grinning death’s head lurking in the background.

But the song that stabs me in the heart – a song that is still difficult for me to listen to – is “Back in the High Life Again.” Written by Steve Winwood and Will Jennings, it was happy and upbeat, a huge hit for Winwood in 1986. Fourteen years later, Zevon covered it and turned it into the cri de coeur of a delusional lost soul. It was heartbreaking. It was perfect.

Owing solely to coincidence, that song will forever be associated in my thoughts with the passing of a dear friend. So effectively does it bring back those feelings of grief that I can barely bring myself to listen to it. But I love it nonetheless – and, by extension, I love its creator.

And as for me? My shit’s fucked up.


  1. Zevon is always spinning at our house. You’ve absolutely picked one of his best.
    But I think the one song of his that will make me tear up and get nostalgic is “Jesus Mentioned”. I’m not a huge Elvis fan, but the song elicits strong emotions for me. Nor am I religious, so odd that it does get to me. Zevon’s voice -like the voice of an aging Levon Helm- is just gold.

  2. In the realm of I'm a complete psycho, I was humming the Steve Winwood version of "Back in the High Life Again" when I started reading this, I kid you not.

  3. Got lost in this post. I loved Warren too for different reasons. Forgot about this song.

  4. I love him for the single line: “I saw a werewolf drinking a PiƱa Colada at Trader Vic’s ... and his hair was perfect,”

  5. A lot of great Zevon tunes, but My Shit's Fucked Up is one of my favorites. Until today, though, I was under the impression that it was written after diagnosis... not two years before.

    1. I know, right? I was astonished when I found that out. It's the most apropos Tune for the Terminally Ill ever written, nevertheless.

  6. Spot on about Warren Zevon. One of my favorites.


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