Billy Joel revealed his reason for writing to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee to call for Warren Zevon’s induction.
Zevon, who died in 2003, has been eligible since 1994 and made the ballot for the first time this year. In a new interview with the Los Angeles Times, Joel explained why he tried to have him nominated for the class of 2023.
“If anyone deserves to be, he does,” Joel said. “He was a real original, and I don’t know if that’s appreciated enough.” He recalled watching Zevon perform in 1974, saying, “I was knocked out. He was like the crazy brother I never had. He was fearless, and it stuck with me.”
Zevon’s family issued a statement following news of his nomination: “For 20 years since his passing, our father’s incredibly loyal fans have persistently and passionately petitioned on social media for this nomination. We are deeply grateful for their love and dedication to keeping his life’s work alive. We also thank his industry friends and colleagues like David Letterman and Billy Joel who have publicly championed for him to be included here among so many other deserving nominees and inductees.
“To all musicians, music lovers, writers and historians who appreciate Warren Zevon’s unique contribution to music — thank you for helping to keep him and his catalog in the conversation. And of course, thanks to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Nominating Committee for making this dream a reality. We hope this nomination exposes current and future generations to his distinct body of work. He would be deeply honored.”
Joel argued that Zevon “never got the attention he deserves … He was a piano player, and we all tend to get lumped into this thing of ‘They’re not real rock guys’ — which I don’t think is fair, but I understand why it happens. Piano is perceived to be this middle-of-the-road instrument only played by dorks. But when I saw Warren, he was kind of breaking the piano to pieces, little by little, which I thought was an interesting style.”
He added, “Piano is actually a percussion instrument. Most people think it’s a stringed instrument, but you play it like a drum. And Warren, he really fulfilled that role. He banged it, and he banged it good. Even without amplifiers, he was getting the most volume he could get out of that thing.”
Joel remembered the pair had “downed a lot of vodka” on the night they met, discussing “what a pain in the ass it was to schlep around these clubs and have to deal with whatever piece of junk they had available to play.” He also said he’s previously written similar letters to the Rock Hall in support of Joe Cocker and Cyndi Lauper, who is also part of this year’s nominees list. He was inducted in 1999.
Warren Zevon Albums Ranked
A songwriter’s songwriter covered by everyone from Linda Ronstadt to Bob Dylan, he never lost his caustic wit, even when knocking on heaven’s door.