“Don’t Let Us Get Sick” (2001) by Warren Zevon

If you’ve been in a multi-year relationship with someone that’s still intact (either in marriage or not), you’ve hopefully learned to appreciate what you have, but also realize that you can never take your good status for granted.  Real life has an uncanny ability to test the stability of your relationship in terms of issues that never get adequately addressed or discussed, psychological quirks on both sides, or just plain bad luck.

This beautiful song by Warren Zevon, from his stellar 2001 album “Life’ll Kill Ya,” is a modest plea from one person to their significant other to value what they share, no matter what may happen around them or to them.   With all the flowery prose that have been thrown about in the support of love over the years in songs, Zevon’s simple words in this song are, in my opinion, the most meaningful:

“Don’t let us get sick
Don’t let us get old
Don’t let us get stupid, all right?
Just make us be brave
And make us play nice
And let us be together tonight”

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“Back in the High Life” (2000) by Warren Zevon

Another case of “It’s the singer, not the song.” Exhibit 5,654 is Warren Zevon’s cover of Steve Winwood’s “Back in the High Life.” Very soulful and heartfelt and much better than the original.

“Desperados Under the Eaves” – Warren Zevon (live at WMMS-FM, 1976)

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An eerie and minimalistic piano version of one of Zevon’s most famous songs, recorded live for WMMS-FM in Cleveland in 1976. The song contains some of my favorite lyrics of all-time:

“And if California slides into the ocean
Like the mystics and statistics say it will
I predict this motel will be standing … until I pay my bill.”

“Bo Diddley’s a Gunslinger” – Warren Zevon

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Awesome! Someone finally posted this beyond smokin’, show-stopping cover of “Bo Diddley’s a Gunslinger” by Warren Zevon from his classic 1980 live album “Stand in the Fire,” recorded during some legendary concerts at the Roxy in Los Angeles that same year. Way heavier than most music that calls itself heavy metal. Some very sick electric guitar.  This album was dedicated to fellow survivor Martin Scorsese.  What are you waiting for?  Play extremely f–king loud!!!!!

“Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead” – Warren Zevon

From Zevon’s 1991 album “Mr. Bad Example” (LOVE that title!), comes “Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead,” a song that only Zevon could have written.

Unfortunately, most people nowadays think of the 1995 film of the same name when this song is mentioned. To be fair, it wasn’t a bad film. It had some good performances, especially Treat Williams as a psychotic hit man / scat-muncher.  But it was one of the lesser Tarantino-inspired modern noirs that arose like Herpes sores in the few years after the success of “Pulp Fiction” in 1994.

Ah, but I digress. The song is one of Zevon’s best.

“Old Kentucky Home” – Randy Newman

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Another gem from Randy Newman’s 1970 “12 Songs” album, this is Newman’s take on Stephen Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home.” Newman’s version is not what you would call a friendly vision of the American South, but it’s done with a light enough touch so as to be more sardonic than mean.

Warren Zevon attempted something similar with 1982’s “Play it All Night Long,” but because it was much more explicit, it just came off as smug and patronizing and says more about Zevon than the people he was trying to attack.

“Carmelita” – Warren Zevon

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From Zevon’s self-titled album from 1976, comes one of his saddest and grimmest ballads, this time about a heroin addict at the end of his rope. This has been covered by everyone, from Linda Rondstadt to G.G. Allin. If you get the 2-CD deluxe edition of this album, the original demos and alternate takes of this song are even better.

“Keep Me in Your Heart” – Warren Zevon

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Zevon’s last song from his final album “The Wind.” Recorded when he was terminally ill with cancer, “Keep Me in Your Heart” was a nice way to say “Goodbye,” especially for an artist who wrote some extremely dark and cynical songs. This footage is from a documentary about the recording of Zevon’s final album. You’ll notice a lot of famous friends making appearances (Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Joe Walsh, Don Henley).

“Frank and Jesse James” – Warren Zevon

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The first track from Zevon’s stunning self-titled album from 1976, produced by Jackson Browne.  Roy Orbison allegedly was going to cover the song at some point in the 1970s. The opening piano melody is also repeated during the album’s last song “Desperados Under the Eaves,” a nice way to bring continuity to a brilliant song cycle about people living desperate lives.

“Under the Milky Way” – The Church

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A song that’s always a breath of fresh air on any 80s mix. “Under the Milky Way” is a lovely and eerie acoustic-guitar (and bagpipes ?!?) driven ballad that got as high as number 24 on the Billboard singles chart in 1988. Considering the crap that was on the Top 40 that year, that’s quite an accomplishment. Produced by Warren Zevon’s producing right-hand man Waddy Wachtel.