Charles Warren McGough-Johnston

Or how my son came to have the middle name Warren…

When it came time to come up with a name for our son there were several front runners: Charlie and Warren. We ended up putting them together and calling our son Charles Warren. In time we stopped saying Warren, and now we just call him Charlie (its easier that way!). But his middle name is still Warren. So how did this come to be?

Well for starters Charlie comes from all the great, creative Charlies out there that have graced our world at one time or another: Charlie Parker, Charlie Kaufman, Charlie Chaplin (the list goes on). Warren is attributable to only one person: the late, grate Warren Zevon.

So why did I decide to name my son after this guy? In fact, you might be forgiven for thinking that I am off my rocker for doing so. A cursory glance through this guys back pages reveals that he was a problematic father (for the most part), an angry drunk, and a womanizing sex addict.

I think what endears me so much to this guy is the unwavering honesty with which he saw the world and reflected it back through his music. And this same kind of unflinching assessment was brought to bear within Crystal Zevon’s remarkable biography of her late husbund: “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life And Times of Warren Zevon.”

Regardless of whether you are a Zevon fan or not, this book should be required reading. It is simply unprecedented in the way in which it deals with its subject in such a forthright and leveling manner. And this is just how Warren wanted it to be. One of his dying wishes was that Crystal write the story and that she wouldn’t leave anything out: She certainly didn’t. The book is a harrowing look back, encompassing Zevon’s very own journal entries, as well as frank and often uncharitable recollections of friends, colleagues and lovers. The result is an unprecedented level of access to one of the greatest, most interesting American songwriters of all time.

It strikes me as I write this that true truth seekers are a rare commodity in this world. There is a warmth and sensitivity in Warren’s music that could only come from somebody that took a real long hard look at the human condition, and then had the courage to try to project this through his art. It may not have been a great recipe for commercial success (especially later on in his career), but it sure did make for great, timeless songs. And, personally, I think it makes for a model for living a profound, satisfying life: Stair life in the face, and don’t flinch when it looks back. That’s the kind of life that I hope for Charles-Warren.


Warren is survived by his ex-wife Crystal Zevon who is a fantastic author and person in her own right.

There are also two children: Ariel and Jordan. Jordan Zevon is also an accomplished musician and songwriter, based in Los Angeles.

Here is Jordan performing one of my favorite Zevon tunes: Searching for a Heart.

Bistro de Paris Residency: part 6

For the sixth installment of my ongoing residency at Bistro de Paris we will be paying tribute to Warren. We are thrilled to have on hand one of Montreal’s great songwriters, Rob Lutes, as our special guest.

His version of Mutineer is somewhat of a definitive cover

Hope to see you there!


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