Lou Reed: 1942-2013

posted in: Music News

photo by Marvin (PA) ©2006

Lou Reed, co-founder of the Velvet Underground, solo artist, poet, and photographer, died yesterday from complications stemming from a liver transplant in May.

VU bandmate John Cale released a statement:

The news I feared the most, pales in comparision to the lump in my throat and the hollow in my stomach, Two kids have a chance meeting and 47 years later we fight and love the same way – losing either one is incomprehensible. No replacement value, no digital or virtual fill … broken now, for all time. Unlike so many with similar stories – we have the best of our fury laid out on vinyl, for the world to catch a glimpse. The laughs we shared just a few weeks ago, will forever remind me of all that was good between us.

Reed’s artistic impact on the world is equaled by very few. He made spectacular music, took great chances, challenged his audience, and simply didn’t care about those who might not get it – which sometimes included nearly everyone. That his final release was 2011’s Lulu, a much-maligned collaboration with Metallica, is certainly lamented by fans. But Reed would likely be unfazed, probably even a little pleased, that he left us somewhat confounded.

Writer Steve Erickson has composed a tribute that succinctly describes the loss from a fan’s perspective: “Reed’s genius was to score a literary landscape of Jean Genet, Iceberg Slim, and Raymond Chandler to Brill Building doo-wop, girl-group and trash-pop, a Marvin Gaye lick thrown in here, a surf harmony thrown in there,” he writes. Later he muses, “Reed’s work endures not because it shocks but because it forgives, because it depicts humanity not at its most debased but at its most human.”

Read Erickson’s full piece, “Lou Reed’s Incorrigible Genius,” here.

RIP, Lou.

I wish that I was born a thousand years ago
I wish that I’d sail the darkened seas
On a great big clipper ship
Going from this land here to that
In a sailor’s suit and cap
Away from the big city
Where a man can not be free
– Lou Reed, “Heroin” (Velvet Underground)