Warren Zevon faced death head-on as he recorded his farewell album The Wind in the fall of 2002. Diagnosed with an advanced stage of mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure, the songwriter fueled his final batch of songs with melancholic urgency, immortalized by a usual dose of his beloved wit.
Calling on his closest friends and longtime collaborators, Zevon was joined by the likes of Jackson Browne, Dwight Yoakam, Don Henley, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen in the studio, layering his poignant swan songs with an extra feel of familiarity.
Even in his weakened state, the songwriter defied all odds by channeling his anxieties into some of the strongest songs of his career in this victorious rally.
From the sorrowful saxophone accompanying his vulnerable voice in "Please Stay," a song thinly veiled as a romantic request to his unbelievably brave fatalism-on-the-rock manners in "Prison Grove," Zevon bared his soul during his last waltz with mortality.
The album's last track "Keep Me In Your Heart," which Zevon played as his epitaph, shared the most moving lyrics of all, "Sometimes when you're doing simple things around the house, Maybe you'll think of me and smile...Keep me in your heart for a while," perhaps the most difficult to listen to without tearing up.
The Wind was released Aug. 26, 2003, earning Zevon one of his highest-charting albums, as well as Grammys for Best Contemporary Folk Album and Best Rock Vocal Performance. Surrounded by rapturous praise of his album as well as his family and loved ones, Zevon passed away two weeks later on Sept. 7.
Many of these same peers who contributed to The Wind honored the songwriter in the 2004 tribute album Enjoy Every Sandwich: Songs of Warren Zevon, a title referencing Zevon's famous comment during his final appearance of the Late Show with David Letterman.
Also contributing to Enjoy Every Sandwich was Zevon's son, Jordan, who continues to raise awareness about mesothelioma as Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization's (ADAO) spokesperson. With "so much misinformation out there about mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases, " Jordan shared with LA Weekly in 2016 that he has joined the fight to ban asbestos by putting on fundraiser concerts with some of Zevon's former colleagues.
Readers can join in support of the ban today through the Bicameral Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act (ARBAN). Details are available here.