Even in death, Warren Zevon looms larger than life. The late singer-songwriter is the focus of three projects including a newly released cache of classic live shows, a possible Broadway treatment of his life and work and a Kevin Smith film based on his hockey song “Hit Somebody.”
When it comes to onstage rock antics of the 1970s, Zevon easily falls in the top five. Page through ex-wife Crystal Zevon’s bio, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, and you’ll find an alarming collection of Zevon’s thrashing, howling, unleashed onstage acts during his frenzied madman tours. In an era of lava lamp soft rock and SoCal slickness, Zevon paraded his renegade outlaw act loaded with irony, wit and literary heft. Cat Stevens never poured vodka on his chest, and Billy Joel never snarled about building a cage of human bones. But Warren Zevon did. “He had his crowd,” ex-wife Crystal Zevon tells Rolling Stone. “Everyone may have their own Warren Zevon story, but not on tape, or live. This is proof.”
With the approval of Zevon’s family members, Archive.org released a definitive collection of his chest-beating, razor-edged, frothy assaults from the boards between 1976 and 2001 (that’s 89 shows and 1,137 free songs). “Warren’s fans have this unbelievable collection of stuff,” said Crystal Zevon. “At one point [Zevon’s son] Jordan gave them permission to swap music.” Jordan Zevon, a musician, green-lighted the project out of respect for his father. “Dad had a liberal attitude towards taping,” he said. “The fans are going to trade anyway. And there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to.”
Die-hard Zevonians can also now start wringing their hands in anticipation over a Broadway treatment of Zevon’s life and music. Nothing is set, but the Zevon clan is considering options, reviewing scripts and fielding ideas. “There’s something going on here,” Crystal Zevon says. Her son added that the prospect of a Broadway treatment has buzz, but might not yet be ready for mainstream theater buffs. “The idea sounds kind of scary, but also kind of interesting.” Jordan said. “It would have to be so dark and out there, and have my dad’s dark wit and humor. And I’m not sure audiences are ready for that. It wouldn’t be for everyone. But who knows?”
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Finally, there’s chatter about director Kevin Smith doing a movie based on Zevon’s 2002 tune “Hit Somebody,” about a Canadian hockey player, a goon whose job is to hit hard, fight rough and brutally take down opponents, but never, ever touch the puck. It’s a touching tale. Smith recently told MTV News that he may turn the tune into a feature film. According to reports, the film would be set in the 1970s and center on the World Hockey Association before teams defected to the National Hockey League in 1979. “It takes place during the last gasp of the goon era of hockey,” Smith says. “When it was all about fighting,” (think Paul Newman’s classic puck flick Slapshot).
Meanwhile, there’s an added bonus. In the song, David Letterman displays his pipes in the chorus. “Hit somebody,” he croaks repeatedly, like a frenzied fan out for blood. “Hit Somebody!”