September 08, 2003 10:18 AM

Singer-songwriter Warren Zevon, 56, who scored his biggest hit with the 1978 album “Excitable Boy” — which contained the top-20 single “Werewolves of London” — was found dead in his Los Angeles home Sunday after failing to wake from an afternoon nap, a spokesperson tells Billboard.

Zevon was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in August 2002.

Once a wild man of rock (who had been sober for nearly 18 years and reputedly quit smoking five years ago), Zevon had spent much of the past year working on his final studio recording, “The Wind,” which was released two weeks ago.

Perhaps buoyed by word of Zevon’s ailing health, the album entered the Billboard 200 at No. 16, his highest chart ranking since “Excitable Boy” peaked at No. 8 nearly a quarter of a century ago.

“The Wind,” featuring guest appearances from the likes of Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, T Bone Burnett, Dwight Yoakam and others, sold 48,000 copies in its first week of release, says Billboard.

In his mid-’70s heyday, Zevon wrote and recorded much-covered songs like “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” “Hasten Down the Wind” and “Carmelita.”

In a candid interview with Billboard last year, Zevon — who had joked about death frequently, even in his healthy days — quipped sarcastically that his goal was to live long enough to see the latest James Bond film.

According to the Associated Press, he leaves behind two grown children.

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