Warren Zevon didn’t start as a caustically funny singer-songwriter who’d amass some of music’s biggest and best artists as lifelong fans and conspirators. His earliest records – first as part of the Los Angeles duo Lyme & Cybelle and then a solo debut, Wanted Dead or Alive, that arrived in 1969 to little attention – barely hinted at what was to come (though Lyme & Cybelle’s 1966 single “Follow Me” was one of only three times Zevon hit Billboard’s Hot 100).
Early ’70s stints as a session player and bandleader with the Everly Brothers eventually led to his songs being covered by fans and friends like Linda Ronstadt, one of Zevon’s most prominent supporters during a time when she was one of the most popular singers on the charts. In 1976, he got a second chance with a self-titled album that included a who’s who of the era’s biggest artists, including Eagles members Glenn Frey and Don Henley, Fleetwood Mac‘s Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Phil Everly and Jackson Browne, who produced the record.
Two years later, a commercial breakthrough came with Excitable Boy, which included even more famous friends and Zevon’s only Top 40 hit, “Werewolves of London.” Periods of personal and critical ups and downs followed, as did records with R.E.M. (the 1987 comeback record Sentimental Hygiene and a side project called Hindu Love Gods), stripped-down LPs and, lastly, a farewell album in 2003, recorded not long after Zevon was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The Wind was released just two weeks before he died and netted Zevon his first Grammy nominations (he posthumously won two).
He didn’t throw too many curves during his career; you pretty much knew what you were getting with his music, which you’ll notice in the below list of Warren Zevon Albums Ranked Worst to Best. But he was never predictable and rarely boring, maintaining a wry twist of phrase, an abundance of hooks and a morbid sense of humor until the end (he covered Bob Dylan‘s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” on that last LP). He was one of the very best.
Warren Zevon Albums Ranked
A songwriter’s songwriter covered by everyone from Linda Ronstadt to Bob Dylan, he never lost his caustic wit, even when knocking on heaven’s door.