I was surprised by how emotional it was. Not that I cried or anything like that, but when I heard that Lou Reed had died I really felt a loss–a very heavy and undefined rupture of…what?
I haven’t even thought about Lou Reed in maybe five or six, or even ten years, but there was a time back in the weird transition days between college and whatever the next step would be (mid-80s), when Lou Reed’s music was almost all that I listened to. It was important to me because it was “authentic,” and as I entered the adult world of work or whatever it was gonna be, I knew instinctively that I needed to ground myself in something true.
Although these days I am a Dylan fan first and foremost, Reed’s music always seemed to me to be more honest–certainly the tone of his writing is less abstract than Dylan’s, more direct. It’s what I think Springsteen has always aimed for, actually. Why wait for Mr. Tambourine Man when you could be “Waitin’ for the man?”
I really connected with the art of Lou Reed when I first heard “Coney Island Baby”–“…the glory of love!”–I must have listened to that song a thousand times and it still moves me. Same with “Street Hassle” and “Perfect Day.” That’s when I knew for sure that this man was in it for his life. All of my reservations about the early Andy Warhol jive and the Bowie-era fashion facade dissolved into Reed’s transcendent sonic world of punks, misfits, and derelicts. They weren’t just types to him–these people really mattered.
And the music did too. After all, who could possibly recommend making an album like ‘The Blue Mask,’ or ‘Metal Machine Music,’ if they were just in it for the money? With ‘The Blue Mask,’ in particular, my suspicions, which had been aroused by ‘Transformer,’ were confirmed: this is an artist. I don’t know if anyone, Dylan included, ever respected rock and roll as an art form the way that Lou Reed did–maybe Patti Smith, but she would probably credit Lou for that too.
So, Lou Reed, thank you, thank you, thank you…my life was saved by rock and roll, yes rock and roll.