The Second Disc

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In Memoriam: Lou Reed (1942-2013)

with 8 comments

Lou Reed

Tough, uncompromising and honest – the music of singer, songwriter and guitarist Lou Reed might have been the very quintessence of New York rock and roll.  Since first making a splash with 1967’s The Velvet Underground and Nico, Reed, who has died unexpectedly at the age of 71, doggedly pursued his own personal muse.  Even as he synthesized numerous influences like doo-wop, jazz, R&B and Tin Pan Alley pop into his own ultimately influential rock style, he always stayed true to his roots as a bold, frank and uncompromisingly original artist.

During his creative odyssey, he could always be counted on to take a left turn – whether with the glam revelry of Transformer, the divisive noise of Metal Machine Music, the gothic theatre of The Raven or the harsh poetry of the Metallica collaboration Songs for Lulu.  From those heady days with his cohorts in The Velvet Underground right up to the present, Lou Reed always found art and soul in the darkness.  The last time I saw Mr. Reed perform live, in 2010, he was holding court in a dim New York room, adding his thunderous guitar to a singular, droning rendition of Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen’s “One for My Baby.”  Mercer’s lyrics are fitting way to remember this experimental, avant-garde and altogether earthy art-rock pioneer: “You’d never know it, but buddy, I’m a kind of poet/And I got a lot of things to say/And when I’m gloomy, you simply gotta listen to me/Until it’s talked away…”  Like the great songwriters and musicians before him, Lou Reed’s stark art will endure for the length of that long, long road.  Rest in peace, Mr. Reed.

Written by Joe Marchese

October 27, 2013 at 13:58

Posted in Lou Reed, News

8 Responses

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  1. Only a casual fan, but I still can’t remember a Sunday morning in all the years since I first listened to the Peel Slowly… set that I haven’t had “Watch out, the world’s behind you” go through my head.
    Absolutely perfect selection of Mercer’s lyrics and your reasons for using it to serve as an elegy.

    Brian Stanley

    October 27, 2013 at 14:54

  2. For me, the single most transcendent moment in rock music history came during Lou Reed’s solo live version (from “Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal,” 1974) of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.” When the band – which featured members of the group Alice Cooper – finishes up their long, beautiful, elegiac introduction and kicks into the signature riff, I thought my heart would explode with joy. To this day, I want it played at my funeral. Perhaps they’ll play it at Lou’s.

    There’s a bit of magic in everything, and then some loss to even things out. Rest in peace.

    Randy Anthony

    October 27, 2013 at 14:57

    • I’m remembering the same moment circa ’74, hearing that transition into “Sweet Jane” on R&R Animal. Blew my mind.


      October 27, 2013 at 18:14

  3. Just saw the news elsewhere – sad, but only a little surprised after reading what he’d been through recently (and in the past) – still, sorry to hear he’s died.

    Bill Janowski

    October 27, 2013 at 16:47

  4. Excellent rememberance Joe. Lou was one of the true originals of Rock & Roll. His contributions will live on forever. R.I.P. Mr. Reed.


    October 27, 2013 at 18:26

  5. I was born and raised in NYC and met and spoke with Lou on several occasions over the years. My mom knew a few people he knew. Funny thing, he was actually a very sweet guy to me. Nothing like his reputation. Of course, he didn’t suffer fools gladly, that’s for sure!

    Lou was the beating heart of New York–a heart that beat darkly, beat hilariously, beat tragically, but ultimately beat victoriously. In my eyes, Lou Reed WAS New York, in all its many facets. He provided the soundtrack to pretty much every chapter of my life up to now. To think that nothing more will come from his pen or lips is overwhelming to say the least.

    I can’t even sleep tonight because I’m all wound up, hence this post. Weird thing, the first album I played after I heard of his death was “New Sensations.” Not sure why. Maybe because I once told him one of my favorite songs of his was “I Love You, Suzanne.” Not “Heroin,” not “Pale Blue Eyes,” not “Sweet Jane,” but a jolly little pop ditty he wrote in the ’80s. He actually seemed quite pleased at that. I was almost half-expecting him to punch me in the face. 🙂 I’m still amazed I had the balls to tell him that!

    I could write forever about the guy and what his music has meant to me, but ultimately no words will communicate that better than his. Think I’m gonna turn the lights off and spin “Coney Island Baby.” Lou was a gift, not just to the women of this world, but to EVERYONE who valued emotion and honesty and integrity. He certainly wasn’t close to perfect, but who is? In the end, though, he was what so many people claim they are but often aren’t: simply and perfectly, and poetically, human.

    Chief Brody

    October 28, 2013 at 02:04

    • He was a very sweet man. I met him 35 years ago when I was in high school and ran into him about 5 times over the years and he always remembered me. I last saw him on 3rd Avenue here about 3 months ago!


      October 29, 2013 at 08:56

      • That’s really cool. Last time I spoke to him was in 2001, not long after my dad died. I was in town handling estate business and I saw him in the Village walking alone. He was waiting at a corner, and I just walked by him and said, “Hey, Lou, howya doin’?” At first he didn’t recognize me and just gave a courteous “Hi,” but then I guess he recognized my speech impediment (I’ve stuttered since early childhood) and we spoke for probably ten minutes. I told him about my dad, and he gave me pretty heartfelt condolences. Last thing I told him, I said, “Keep up the good fight. Critics know shit” He kinda grinned and said, “Always do, and no they don’t.” That was the last time I saw him. 🙂 The mold has been broken forever with his passing.

        Chief Brody

        October 29, 2013 at 10:20

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