Song of the Day, February 3: Poor Poor Pitiful Me by Warren Zevon (or Linda Ronstadt)
February 3, 2017 Leave a comment
Today’s song is a surprisingly durable tale of woe. Warren Zevon wrote and recorded Poor, Poor Pitiful Me for his eponymous 1976 album. It’s one of the earliest examples of his wry, dark storytelling. The narrator recounts a series of mistakes, mishaps, and romantic missteps, lamenting the tragic impact of women on his life. Witty, bitter, and funny, it’s classic Zevon. It also features one of the best bizarre similes of all time, comparing a woman who mistreats him to both Jesse James and a Waring blender.
Linda Ronstadt was an early admirer of Zevon’s writing, introduced to her by mutual friend Jackson Browne. She recorded a surprisingly effective version of the song for her #1 album Simple Dreams. She reversed the genders of the characters and toned down the verse that implies an S&M relationship, but otherwise stayed true to the spirit of the song. (She even kept the blender reference!) Ronstadt turned in a delightfully gritty performance, a standout in her catalog and a rare Top 40 hit for writer Zevon [#31, 1978].
BONUS: For a dark, somewhat twisted tune, Poor, Poor Pitiful Me has had a remarkable number of cover versions. Terri Clark took her version, adapted from Ronstadt’s reading, into the Country Top 5 in 1996; somehow her chipper approach works. Longtime Zevon friend Jackson Browne, who produced the original recording, offered his interpretation on the Zevon tribute disc Enjoy Every Sandwich. He offers a pretty straight Zevon approach, with nice extra crunch added by the harmonies and lead guitar of Bonnie Raitt.