POLITICS: A Buddy Tale 

State Senator Cohen recalls the impact, in life and death, of pal Warren Zevon.

We’ve all had moments of personal history that are indelibly linked to this or that piece of music. One of mine, back in the late Ô80s, involved a vacation trip from Memphis to Topeka, Kansas, where I was driving my newly reconfigured immediate family to spend some time with my mother and sister, who lived there.

Early in the trip, I plugged a casette into the dashboard that featured an assortment of oldies, including Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” arguably the greatest novelty record ever made and one of the better rockers, too. The bottom line: no other song on the cassette made it into play, as, taking time out here and there for conversation, we kept reversing “Werewolves” and replaying it and singing along with it -- notably the “Owooo!” chorus -- over and over.

All the way from Memphis to Topeka.

Better yet, I got to meet Zevon later on, in Los Angeles during the 2000 Democratic convention, and tell him how much pleasure -- before, during, and after that episode -- this and other songs of his had given me.

The celebrated singer/songwriter/producer went bashful and blushed. He clearly enjoyed being enjoyed.

The man who made the introduction that summer day in L.A. was Memphis state senator Steve Cohen, who had become one of Zevon’s closest friends and would remain one right up through last week, when he telephoned Zeon, who was rather publicly dying from a rare form of lung cancer, and promised to send him some portions of a white aparagus-and-mayonnaise concoction that the artist fancied.

“Send it on,” said an enthusiastic Zevon, who was obviously having trouble breathing but who had “looked good” only two weeks before when Cohen had visited him in L.A. and watched a showing with him of the VH1 television special on the making of “The Wind,” Zevon’s last album and one whose selections consciously reflect his sense of oncoming death.

“He’d always been concerned with life-and-death matters, his own and everybody else’s,” said Cohen, who noted that an unusual number of Zevon’s compositions concerned such cutting-edge issues as the death penalty, racial hatreds, Middle Eastern discord, and threats to the environment -- all without losing that characteristic Zevonian edge of whimsy.

“He wasn’t political in the usual sense, but he didn’t hesitate to get involved in a cause that meant something to him,” said Cohen.

One of the causes that came to mean something to Zevon was Cohen’s own political career. The two first met in 1994 when Zevon, then appearing at the old 616 Club on Marshall, agreed to do a special concert to a group of Young Democrats on behalf of Cohen’s candidacy that year for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Cohen’s long-shot campaign try fell short, but the friendship endured. Zevon would be back to assist Cohen many times thereafter, notably during the state senator’s race for Congress in 1996. And they often got together for purely recreational purposes as well -- the Lewis-Tyson heavyweight championship bout of a year ago being a case in point.

The last time Cohen checked in on his friend was Sunday night, when the NFL’s Tennessee Titans were playing Zevon’s beloved Oakland Raiders on ESPN. The senator called to see if Zeon was watching and learned that his friend had passed. A life that had often been characterized by that exuberant chorus of “Owooo!” had ended quietly.

Cohen will go to Los Angeles this week to attend a public memorial service for Zevon.

AT THE LEWIS-TYSON FIGHT, 2002: (L TO R) IRVIN SALKY, JULIAN BOND, STEVE COHEN, MICHAEL WOLFF, AND WARREN ZEVON

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Dark Ages Coming?

      The governmental future as seen by Congressman Cohen, who hints at a new leadership position for himself.
    • Trumped Expectations

      One major surprise colored the 2016 political year. One major surprise colored the 2016 political year.

Blogs

News Blog

Rape Kit Backlog Testing to Finish This Year

From My Seat

Inauguration Day: Then and Now

Politics Beat Blog

Cohen Won't Attend Trump Inauguration

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: Valerie June

Beyond the Arc

Bulls 108, Grizzlies 104: A Game of Ghosts

Tiger Blue

Tigers 62, USF 56

Fly On The Wall Blog

Memphis Bound Gilbert Gottfried Talks Trump, TV, Life on the Road

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Jackson Baker

  • Cohen Won't Attend Trump Inauguration

    Makes announcement at MLK commemoration at Mason Temple, tells Flyer that President-elect's insulting tweets about civil rights icon John Lewis were "the straw that broke the camel's back."
    • Jan 16, 2017
  • Briefs from the Political Week

    Rallings downplays homicide numbers; Commission prepares legislative package, includes medical marijuana, not in agreement yet on MLGW issue; Cohen gets new leadership post in Congress
    • Jan 13, 2017
  • Dark Ages Coming?

    The governmental future as seen by Congressman Cohen, who hints at a new leadership position for himself.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Filling the Space

    For all the in-fighting, we’re all looking for the same thing, and sometimes we can realize it.
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • Jill Stein in Memphis

    An impressive turnout for Green Party presidential nominee at Amurica.
    • Oct 6, 2016
  • Election 2015: The Mike Williams Factor

    Some think three’s already a crowd in the mayor’s race, but a fourth candidate insists there’s room for more.
    • Sep 3, 2015
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation