cover image Accidentally like a Martyr: The Tortured Art of Warren Zevon

Accidentally like a Martyr: The Tortured Art of Warren Zevon

James Campion. Backbeat, $24.99 paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-61713-672-6

Drawing on interviews with singer-songwriter Warren Zevon’s family, friends, and industry associates, as well as on secondary resources, journalist Campion explores 10 songs and three albums that he believes offer the best insight into Zevon’s life and art. Campion observes Zevon’s brilliance in the arrangement of songs on his 1976 album Warren Zevon, in which the sweet ballad “Hasten Down the Wind” leads directly into the bitter “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” (at that point, Campion writes, there’s a “vulnerability completely absent in the ensuing songs”). Zevon’s album Sentimental Hygiene (1987) came at the end of a period of the singer’s reclusion and alcohol abuse; it was his first straight-ahead rock album and it delivered stinging indictments of what he believed was a corporate, greedy music business. Zevon’s “Desperadoes Under the Eaves,” meanwhile, is a satire of the Eagles’ song “Desperado” and also an homage to Béla Bartók. Campion writes, quoting Zevon’s daughter Ariel, “He was a musician through and through... [music] was his means of expressing his innermost, truest insights and feelings.” Campion’s adoring book will speak mostly to Zevon’s fans, and will encourage them to listen to his music anew. (June)