“Lou had chosen the perfect day to set sail: the day of poets, on Sunday morning, the world behind him.”
Patti Smith’s resonant, but touching obituary for her dear friend and resolutely talented human being Lou Reed was one of many cascading messages that flowed in following the death of the musician on October 27th.
Whether it is down to the strength and unavoidable awareness of the media, Lou Reed’s passing was one that grounded the musical world momentarily. Where does one begin with Lou Reed?
From The Velvet Underground beginnings to an equally powerful solo career, this Brooklyn native was always going to make waves. The influence and legacy traced by this post-punk progenitor stretches confidently to the vast corners of the music world.
An anabolic love for poetry and literature, this interest fuelled the power of his songs. His ability to weave images from simple collaborations of words has been something rarely matched since. Obvious examples include the fleeting, swooping escalations mirroring the effects of shooting up on ‘Heroin’ to the tunes such as ‘White Light/White Heat’ and ‘What Goes On’ that subconsciously trigger your groovin’ button.
Reed’s unusually appealing flat vocals and soothing guitar is a honeycomb of delight. Clicking on any Velvet Underground album is like curling up in your favourite childhood blanket; heavy yet comforting.
The effect Lou Reed has had since his debut is something that is lost in today’s musical hemisphere of pop plasticity and crooning saps that make you cringe with every awkward chord progression.
When you look at the artists today causing the loudest impact, including Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga, their influential lyrics fall flat and limp against the laconic yet profound words of Reed.
Lou Reed achieved his level of acclaim without the unnecessary and pungent tool of puppet-controlled controversy typical of any successful musician today. Yes, he dabbled in drugs and boozed and partied, but this did not shadow once the individual resonance of his records, and as it shows now following his death, their immortality.
Laurie Anderson, longtime partner and wife since 2008, poignantly wrote about their relationship together and Reed’s final, peaceful moments in this world. She believes, “The purpose of death is the release of love,” and this is exactly what has happened since that quiet Sunday evening last month.
Her adoration for this man is echoed in anyone who had the pleasure to appreciate what Reed created over the years. From euphoric dance numbers such as ‘Hangin’ Round’ to trembling affections seen in ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ there is a tune for every mood.
So, if you’re a new listener or a dedicated follower of the Lou-train, I think we can all agree when Anderson sweetly concludes what we’re all thinking. “He was always so gorgeous.”