I’ve just heard the news that Lou Reed is dead, at 71. The cause of his death has not yet been released, but he underwent a liver transplant in May.
The wires will be abuzz with obituaries, praise, sadness, tales of his adventures with Bowie, Warhol, ‘Metal Machine Music’…
Amidst the tears, never forget Lou Reed’s real legacy: an enemy of cliche, predictability, and any kind of trite sentimentality. For this very valuable contribution to the music world, he should take his place alongside the other Great American Writers (in the sky).
Never mind the ‘difficult’ albums (MMM, Berlin, Lulu (with Metallica)), how about those songs and early trio of perfect Velvet Underground albums? ‘Candy Says’, ‘Venus in Furs’, ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’, ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, ‘Satellite Of Love’, ‘Perfect Day’, ‘White Light/White Heat’…
Lou Reed was quite as influential as John Lennon, and positively trumped him in the knowing, cool, wise-man-of-rock stakes. The disarming honesty of everything he wrote can still give you the shivers, especially when delivered in his craggy, deadpan drawl:
‘It was great what we did yesterday, and I’d do it all again. The fact that you’re married just makes you my best friend. But it’s truly, truly a sin…’
Along with his peers, Reed was responsible for elevating rock music’s cerebral quota, for bringing contexts, storytelling, multi-narratives to song – in short for making rock not only worthy of dancing to, but also thinking deeply about and analysing. Lou Reed was glam before glam, punk before punk, but finally epitomised New York like no other singer/songwriter.
No bullshitting or fawning necessary. Great work – thank you and goodbye, Lou Reed.