However, Zevon had fallen prey to alcoholism, and his personal demons sidelined him for the next two years; 1980s Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School and 1981's live set Stand in the Fire marked his gradual return to form, and the promise of his early work was restored on 1982's brilliant release The Envoy. The album fared miserably on the charts, however, and Zevon again fell off the wagon. A long period of therapy and counseling followed before, newly sober and revitalized, he issued Sentimental Hygiene in 1987, recorded with backing assistance from members of R.E.M. (In 1990, another collection of material from the sessions featuring Zevon and R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry was released under the name Hindu Love Gods.) He continued his comeback in 1989 with Transverse City, a concept record inspired by science fiction's cyberpunk movement, and 1991's Mr. Bad Example. In 1993, Zevon issued his second live album, Learning to Flinch, followed in 1995 by Mutineer. His next studio effort, Life'll Kill Ya, did not appear until early 2000. It was a moderate success, enough to inspire him to step back into the studio after touring the U.S.. My Ride's Here, which featured a guest appearance from David Letterman of all people, was released in the spring of 2002. Several months later, Zevon was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an inoperable form of lung cancer, and doctors expected him to live no more than a few months. Zevon decided to work on a final album, with the help of a handful of celebrity friends and collaborators; The Wind was released in August of 2003, nearly a year to the day after Zevon learned of his condition, and he lived long enough to see its release, as well as the birth of his first grandchildren.
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