Wednesday Weeper Of The Week: “Hasten Down The Wind” by Warren Zevon

There’s a common perception of the late, great Warren Zevon as an iconoclastic singer-songwriter who wrote about murderers and mercenaries and various other reprobates. That’s probably because his biggest hits, such as “Werewolves Of London” and “Excitable Boy”, were in that vein.

But there was always another side to Zevon, a side that examined the love’s inherent impossibilities with insight and tenderness in ballads that could leave you more consistently misty-eyed than just about any other songwriter. From his 1976 self-titled debut album, “Hasten Down The Wind” details, with heartrending poignancy, that moment when a relationship reaches the point of no return and the only merciful thing to do, for all involved, is to put it out of its misery.

Zevon does a wonderful job of detailing the back-and-forth that goes on in such situations, the breaking up and the backtracking and the tendency to want to hold on to something just because it’s familiar and the pain you know is safer than the pain you don’t. Clean breaks are rare, which makes the dying embers of the affair depicted here crackle with such honest emotion.

The chorus, featuring backing vocals from Phil Everly, is an absolute killer. “She’s so many women,” Zevon sings. “He can’t find the one who was his friend.” Yet even as he cuts her loose, their connection stubbornly persists: “So he’s hanging on to half her heart/He can’t have the restless part.” And then that parting line, the kind of classy way to say goodbye that we all wish we could muster when the time comes even if our voice is breaking as we say it: “So he tells her to hasten down the wind.”

Meanwhile session ace David Lindley’s slide guitar allows all that emotion to flow as a swelling orchestra tries to break the fall for this fractured pair. “Hasten Down The Wind” is a pure beauty that flies in the face of Warren Zevon’s reputation as a wildman both within and without his songs. It promotes bravely bounding into the unpredictable wind when your alternative is dangling in romantic limbo.

(E-mail me at countdownkid@hotmail or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia.)



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