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‘Wind’ blows away guilt from death

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

“Give me a reason to believe that you’re gone.”

— Evanescence

I hadn’t been able to do it for so long, listen to Warren Zevon’s 2003 album he made with friends like Bruce Springsteen, Dwight Yoakam, Don Henley, Jackson Brown and Tom Petty while he was dying.

“The Wind” he called it, and in the album’s “Please Stay” he sings with Emmylou Harris, “Will you stay with me to the end? 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.”

But, inevitably, the album called out to me once more, and I had to listen. And as I did, I felt a piercing ache in my diminished soul as this gifted man — born on the same day as me and dead from a disease we shared — sang his farewell:

“Shadows are falling and I’m running out of breath.

Keep me in your heart for a while.

If I leave you it doesn’t mean I love you any less.

Keep me in your heart for a while.

... Engine driver’s headed north to Pleasant Stream.

Keep me in your heart for a while.

These wheels keep turning but they’re running out of steam.

Keep me in your heart for a while.”

I’m sure psychiatrists could tell me just what it is in my psyche that makes Zevon’s death so hard for me to come to grips with. After all, this is not someone I knew personally, and it’s not like I’d list him among my Top 10 favorite musicians of all time. (Although “Excitable Boy” is an unbelievably good album, and “Boom Boom Mancini” is amazing.)

The deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison — two of the Beatles, for goodness’ sake — are monumental losses from a musical standpoint, and Harrison’s death was from cancer, the same disease that claimed Zevon. It would seem listening to their incredible music would affect me more deeply.

Logically, then, my inability to deal with Zevon’s passing makes no sense. But I don’t think logic is a major consideration when you’re coping with human loss. And I don’t think psychiatrists or others who study human behavior can neatly categorize everyone’s reaction to trauma.

No, I think my inability to cope with Warren Zevon’s death has to do with the fact that he and I were going through very similar health circumstances at virtually the same time. Maybe it’s guilt; maybe it’s my inability to come to grips with the mysterious ways that we’re told God works in.

All I know is, this wonderfully creative man who brought me and millions of others so much happiness with the art he created is no longer with us. And I am. I’m sure there’s some kind of cosmic logic involved, but that’s some really heavy stuff to wrap my head around.

So, I finally listened to “The Wind” again. And, yes, I choked up listening to many of the songs, choked up at the weakness in Zevon’s once-powerful voice and at lyrics that openly addressed his pending demise. (He even does a heart-breaking cover of Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door,” the black humor of which is not lost on the listener; in fact, it’s classic Zevon.)

Recovering from my initial shock at hearing the album, a couple of things hit me. One, even as his health was diminishing, the man was still an amazing artist. And, two, maybe it’s no coincidence that I was drawn to listen to “The Wind” again now, during the Thanksgiving season. Maybe it’s a reminder all over again to be thankful that, where others — even some very significant others — didn’t, I got a second chance to spend more time with the people I love and do the things that matter to me.

I’m sure if he were still around, ole Warren would find a song in there somewhere.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

Comments

LeeCo 1 year, 5 months ago

Carlton,

You and I often disagree but on this one we do agree. I would like to point you to another poignant final album, albeit of another genre. Check out the final album of Johnny Cash, specifically the song "I hurt myself today".

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Roger879 1 year, 5 months ago

I feel that way about Jeff Buckley. He was an extraordinary young artist and he died too young and in too tragic a way and it saddens me everytime I think of him and his life. He was abandoned by his father and made it on his own, and when he finally hit the big time he died at the same age his dad died, but not of a drug overdose the way his talented father, Tim Buckley, died, but in a swimming accident in the Mississippi River. His rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is probably one of the most beautiful I have ever heard. And if you can by chance get a copy of him doing a reading of Edgar Allan Poe's poem "Ulalume" you will be a convert.

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