For adventurous music fans of a certain age, Lou Reed was always there.
If you came of age in the 1960s, there was The Velvet Underground, the pioneering band that he formed with Welsh avant-gardist John Cale. The Reed-fronted version of VU released four studio albums (1967-1970), the first of which, The Velvet Underground & Nico, “only sold a few thousand copies, but everyone who bought one formed a band.” (A quote widely attributed to Brian Eno).
If you were a glam rocker in the early 70s, there was the David Bowie-endorsed Reed onstage in London, holding court at New York’s Max’s Kansas City, and in the iconic photographs taken by Mick Rock (collected in the recently published Transformer). There was the FM radio hit “Walk on the Wild Side” and, a few years later, the cover of Punk Magazine #1, which imagined Reed as a modern Frankenstein.
In the 1980s, Lou Reed dialed back his eccentricities a bit, starring in an ad for Honda scooters (in ’84) and releasing the commercially successful album New York in 1989.
The 90s found a tender Lou Reed at odds with his reputation as a mercurial personality (much has been noted regarding his particular scorn for music journalists): 1990’s Songs for Drella found him re-teamed with Cale for a tribute to his late mentor Andy Warhol; 92’s Magic & Loss explored death and mortality; Set the Twilight Reeling (1996) even included a touching ode to chocolate egg cream.
In the past decade-plus, Reed continued to release albums, some acclaimed (2007’s Hudson River Wind Meditations) and some widely derided (2011’s Metallica collaboration Lulu). In 2008 he married performance artist Laurie Anderson, who he had been dating since 1992. Earlier this year, he had a liver transplant. On Sunday, October 27, Lou Reed passed away. His music lives on and will always be here.
Rest in peace, Lou.
Written by August Forte, 11 November, 2013