VERSIONS: “Keep Me in Your Heart”

Warren Zevon had just been advised he only had a short time to live in mid 2002, so he asked his record company if he could make a farewell album before he died. The album was titled ‘The Wind’ and it was studded with songs about death, mortality and the human condition. The last track, the last one he recorded and in which his vocals were allegedly  recorded at home because he was too ill to get to the studio, is the outstandingly beautiful ‘Keep me in your Heart’. With its heart-rending opening couplet “Shadows are fallin’ and I’m runnin out of breath, If I leave you it doesn’t mean I love you any less” to the ‘resigned’ final verse couplet  “Engine driver’s headed north up to Pleasant Stream These wheels keep turnin’ but they’re runnin’ out of steam” this is a bona fide classic end-of-life song. The constantly repeated title line is like a beseeching to those left behind. This is a funeral favourite writ large.

Zevon’s version is almost too painful and heartbreaking to listen to with his voice a pale shadow of its former strength, but he was able to finish it as intended, with his longtime collaborator Jorge Calderon playing all the instruments bar drums.

With apologies for the video quality

Eddie Vedder, he of the amazing gravel voice, has several YouTube appearances singing this song but only released it as a single in 2021, with a version of Tom Petty’s ‘Wildflowers’ as the other side. Vedder’s stunning rendition,  at the Mark Twain Prize for Humor awarded to David Letterman, a good friend and supporter of Zevon, is different to any other, with the addition of saxophone breaks and a gospel choir for the choruses.

A totally different, yet beautifully melancholic version, was released by The Wailin’ Jennys in 2017 on their album ‘Fifteen’ an album of quite lovely renditions of some of their favourite songs. The heavenly harmonies of Nicki Mehta, Ruth Moody and Heather Masse and the high pitch of their voices, with minimal instrumentation, gives the song a different but equally moving poignancy. This live version is marginally slower than their album version.

There were a good many other versions, from Jorge Calderon’s  similar take to Zevon’s on the ‘Enjoy Every Sandwich’ tribute album in 2004, to Madeleine Peyroux’s slow jazzy take in 2011, to Christine Albert’s version on her album ‘Everything’s Beautiful Now’ (2014), which addressed the grief and sadness of losing a number of her friends and family within a short space of time, to the unlikely but surprisingly warm version by Alfie Boe (from his album ‘Trust’ in 2013)

But the final version I reference is a rather interesting take by Wesley Schultz, frontman of The Lumineers, from his covers album ‘Vignettes’ in 2018. With his heartfelt, higher-register, slightly raspy voice underpinned with a nice piano backing from producer Davd Baron, Schultz delivers an intimate tribute to the original.  People are still covering this glorious song, whether on YouTube, or TikTok, or on their own streaming platforms, a testament to the power of its message.

About FredArnold 60 Articles
Lifelong fan of predominantly US (and Canadian) country roots music. Previously an avid concert-goer before wives, kids and dogs got in the way- and although I still try to get to several, my preference for small independent venues often means standing, and that ain't too good for my ancient bones!! Still, a healthy and catholic music collection helps ease the pain
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Viv Fish

Lovely. Every version brings an added layer of beauty.

Robotijo

Fantastic Cat recorded a great one too, a few weeks ago.

Harry Scott

Deacon Blue closed their recent shows with a lovely version, each member of the band taking a turn as lead singer…

Andrew Riggs

Sadly missed his humour and music.