Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Anatomy of a Mixed Tape, Track the Penultimate

16. Please Stay—Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon - The Wind - Please Stay

If you’re on the way out, as Warren Zevon was when he recorded The Wind, the album from which this song is taken, and you’re singing songs about death and leaving, who better to duet with than Emmylou Harris?

In the previous “Anatomy” post, I said that Mr. Zevon had a sense of humor about life’s trials and tribulations. He does, and this album does, but not really this cut. This one’s more straight-ahead mournful. “Will you stay with me to the end?” he sings with Ms. Harris.

When there’s nothing left
But you and me and the wind
We’ll never know ‘til we try
To find the other side of goodbye

And then a throaty sax, like the guys playing under the tunnel walkways in Central Park, starts blowing, really (for me, at least, along with Ms. Harris’ voice) making the song.

A little while before he died, of inoperable lung cancer, Mr. Zevon appeared for a full hour on Letterman. I didn’t know who Mr. Zevon was at the time, but I was transfixed by the bearded, glasses-wearing, obviously worn-down man who, chatting with an at times visibly choked-up Letterman, still managed to be funny, generous, and wise in the face of his own imminent death. He was the only guest that night, and he played several songs in between talking to Dave, one of which, “Mutineer,” remains one of my favorites of Mr. Zevon’s.

But the thing that really struck me was one of the last things he said. Letterman asked him if, in light of his own mortality, he realized anything now about life that he hadn’t before. Mr. Zevon replied, “How much you’re supposed to enjoy every sandwich.”

I think that winking statement covers, in one fell swoop, a great deal of what one needs to know—and keep in mind when times are rough—about our all-too-brief time on this earth.

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