Lou Reed died this week.
He was 71 years old. I don’t think his death is particularly tragic (he had a great run, and accomplished things in his life that ordinary mortals could never even dream of), but it’s definitely a loss for the rest of mankind.
Long before there were internet memes, the standard line on the Velvet Underground was that they only sold 10,000 copies of the their first album, but every one of those 10,000 people started a band.
A man could have a worse legacy in life.
And that doesn’t even begin to address his post-Velvets solo career, which was by turns astounding, perplexing, confounding, lifesaving, and mindblowing. I couldn’t even pick a favourite album out of all that gold, much less a favourite song. Through good times and (in particular) bad, he was always there in the 80s and 90s, and in all the years since, his music has never been out of reach.
I’ve been listening to a lot of his music over the past few days, rediscovering some of it (“The Blue Mask”, “The Gun”), and renewing my faith in the ones I’ve always loved (“Coney Island Baby”, “Dirty Blvd.”). One song in particular, from the criminally-underrated New Sensations, was already in heavy rotation on a new playlist of mine, the “2013 Survival Mix”. I even happened to listen to it on Saturday night before I went out to a friend’s Halloween party.
His deadpan delivery always got me, along with the sense that the characters in his songs were all real people (and indeed, a lot of them were. Look up the lyrics to “Walk on the Wild Side” sometime). Plus, that rhythm guitar defined whole genres of music.
At any rate, I’m just glad to have grown up in a world with Lou Reed in it. Oh, and that song I mentioned? It’s “Turn to Me.” Exactly the kind of elegy he deserves.