Rock biographies, particularly of bands, are an odd subgenre. With an individual singer or instrumentalist, the narrative may take any of the traditional “hero” arcs (rags to riches, unappreciated innovator’s ultimate triumph, temptation/fall and — usually — redemption, etc.), but the story of a hydra-headed rock band must adopt a more amorphous approach.
“I was honest about my own behavior and that of others, yet stopped short of revealing 95 percent of the worst in our business. The nature of memoir is that of truth; only real people can illustrate real stories. However, a measure of effective journalism is its ability to instigate societal change, and only a picture based on truth can do that.”
“I worry about nothing except doing work that I like and that I look at as quality work. I don’t think of legacies or what people think. They are bold moves because I’ve found I can get the most attention with doing things that people don’t expect of me. It’s just the way it is.”
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead is sort of an extended wake for its subject. There’s very little biographical narrative per se; instead, the book compiles a massive array of anecdotes, memories, and opinions from dozens upon dozens of the people who knew him, from engineers, girlfriends, and backing musicians to a fairly astounding variety of celebrities who spent time with Zevon.