Image: Flickr, Man Alive!
Yesterday we lost one of rock n’ roll’s most talented, visionary, pioneering, princely, etc. etc. etc. musicians — Lou Reed, former frontman of The Velvet Underground and reluctant (or, at the very least, recalcitrant) cultural icon. Reed died Sunday morning in his Long Island home at the age of 71. His death is being attributed to liver disease; Reed underwent a liver transplant earlier this year. His last public appearance was on October 3 in New York to celebrate the publication of Transformer, a photography book highlighting the debut of the 1973 album of the same name.
Since I couldn’t possibly do him justice, here are a few pieces written in tribute:
“Reed’s singing and songwriting voice was hard, blunt, acerbic — an implacable voice of experience and skepticism. He didn’t sound at all like a fresh-faced young man, although he had begun his career crafting bubblegum pop songs in that mode, as an in-house songwriter for the “sound-alike” label Pickwick Records. His vocal phrasing was modeled on Bob Dylan’s, but unlike Dylan and other songwriters steeped in folk, Reed never came on like Methuselah — never tried to sound like the old-as-the-hills Voice of the American Musical Unconscious. Instead, Reed did something novel: He wrote and sang rock songs like a grown-up.”
“Lou never forgave me, which was OK by me. I was a bit put off by Lou’s date, Rachel, a transvestite with a 5 o’clock shadow, who sat next to Lou during the interview and didn’t open her mouth. Weird. It seemed to me that Lou inhabited some ultra-hip netherworld where all the rules had been discarded or rewritten—gay, drug addict, narcissist—and as repulsed as I was by this place he occupied, I was also fascinated.”
“I have no control over the audience. I have no idea what they think. My heart’s pure. I can’t do anything. I really can’t do anything. I don’t know what goes on in the crowd. I’ve had them show up and throw beer cans at me. I caused riots in most of the major cities. What can I do?”
“Wax eloquent, for once and finally, he did. Listen kids, you may think you’ve got your identity crises and sexual lateral squeeze plays touchdown cold just because you came out in rouge ‘n’ glitter for Dave Bowie’s latest show, but listen to your Papa Lou.”
— Rebecca H. (Bet you $100 you thought I was Adam!)