Widgets January 24 ~  Pats on the Back Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll

"If you're lucky, people like something you do early and something you do just before you drop dead. That's as many pats on the back as you should expect." ~ Warren Zevon, Entertainment Weekly, 1993

Warren Zevon

Maverick singer-songwriter Warren Zevon (1947-2003) was born on this day in Chicago, Illinois and raised in L.A. In the 60s, he wrote jingles for TV commercials, then released his first album, Wanted Dead or Alive in 1969.

"Regrets are so far from reality," said Zevon, a passionate lover of classical music and books who called Ross MacDonald his literary hero.

In the 70s Linda Ronstadt covered his tunes, including Poor, Poor Pitiful Me, Carmelita, and Hasten Down the Wind. His next albums-- Warren Zevon (1976) and Excitable Boy (1978)--were amazing breakthroughs that propelled him to cult fame.

"Maybe as writers, we carry some kind of physical knowledge of our fates, and work through them," he said.

With wry songs, like his rock hit Werewolves of London, Zevon celebrated satire, honesty, and originality. He wrote in Dirty Life And Times, "Some days I feel like my shadow's casting me,/Some days the sun don't shine."

In the 90s, with grace and humor, Zevon filled in for Paul Shaffer on David Letterman's late night talk show. About celebrating life, he said, "Enjoy every sandwich."

His last recording, The Wind, looked death in the face with his trademark dark humor as he fought lung cancer, after a life of heavy smoking. He said, "I chose a certain path and lived like Jim Morrison and lived 30 more years. You make choices and you have to live with the consequences."

"To me, the message of my songs, of all songs, is 'enjoy life.' My message as a person who evidently doesn't have much more planned is the same. It's the only message I ever thought art had any business having."

More ROCK & ROLL Quotations

Do your job as best you can. With or without the back pats.