Yesterday, me and my aunt got together for some much-needed girl time. With my birthday coming up (exactly 5 days from today; I’ll be 27 and presents are always welcome) we made a whole early celebratory day of it with morning coffee, all-day shopping, and an early dinner. When I finally made it home, got settled, and opened my browser, one of the first things I saw was the news that Lou Reed had died.
Way to ruin a day, Lou Reed.
Lou Reed was and will always be remembered as a rock and roll god.
The observations and criticisms he made of bohemian 1960s New York City, paired with his unapologetic truth-telling, is said to have put him and the songs he wrote and sang as a member of the Velvet Underground, first discovered by Andy Warhol, ahead of their time. As a result, they achieved very little commercial success. That is, until the 1980s, when their cult following exploded and they were finally given the recognition they deserved and were acknowledged as one of the most important and influential rock bands of all time.
Many have commented that at the time they were making music, the songs that Lou Reed was writing for the Velvet Underground fell on a confused and put-off general public. Lou Reed was a story-teller, and his songs were filled with stories and accounts of the complicated messes humans can make for themselves as they navigate through the complicated web that is the human condition.
I don’t think Lou Reed was particularly dark or macabre in his writing. Not as much so as many claim, anyway. I think that above all, he relayed what he had lived in an honest and poetic way — a way that not enough people took the time to understand then. At least people eventually came around and learned from their obvious error in judgment when writing Lou Reed, and the Velvet Underground, off as something not worth paying attention to. It only took them over a decade to do it.
In 1970, Lou Reed left the avant-garde world of the Velvet Underground, took a brief reprieve from music, and ultimately set out on his own. It was during his solo career that he achieved his greatest commercial success, particularly with his second solo album, “Transformer“, co-produced by David Bowie.
Lou Reed lived a full life. A life made up of grand experiences, an open and outrageously creative mind, drug abuse, alcoholism, near-death experiences, getting clean, falling in love, collaborating with other creative geniuses, writing plays, appearing in movies, and reflecting on all of it to create a hell of a lot of music.
We lost a rock and roll god yesterday when Lou Reed passed away at 71, but for anyone who ever heard his music and could remember where they were and what they were doing the first time they were exposed to him, he will always be alive. The music industry will always have him to thank for introducing rock to a new vocabulary in which to compose the narrative of the song around, and his fans will always remember him as the man who walked on the wild side.