‘This howl is for you, wherever you are’: Stephen King’s touching tribute to Warren Zevon

Horror legend Stephen King’s new novel Dr. Sleep, a sequel to the hit book and film The Shining, begins with a hat tip to the late singer-songwriter Warren Zevon.

King, fans will remember, played with a pick-up garage band of writers called the Rock Bottom Remainders, featuring King, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Amy Tan, Scott Turow, Roy Blount, Jr. and others between 1992-2012. Actual musicians would occasionally get in on the fun, including Al Kooper and, yes, Zevon.

It was during one of those gigs, in which King was “playing my primitive brand of rhythm guitar,” that the writer got a chance to take over the mic on one of Zevon’s best-known songs — and received some sage rock ‘n’ roll advance. “He insisted I sing lead on his signture tune, ‘Werewolves of London,’” King writes in the introductory dedication of Dr. Sleep. “I said I was not worthy. He insisted that I was. ‘Key of G,’ Warren told me, ‘and howl like you mean it. Most important of all, play like Keith.’

Keith, meaning Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. You can imagine King’s bemused look in return, as he gazed back at Zevon.

“I’ll never be able to play like Keith Richards, but I always did my best — and with Warren beside me, matching me note for note and laughing his fool head off, I always had a blast. Warren, this howl is for you, wherever you are. I miss you, buddy.”

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