. So, Lou Reed died.
I came to know of Mr. Reed late by some standards. Believe it or not, I never listened to the Velvet Underground records - still haven't. I don't know why. Now that Mo Tucker is a barking Teabagger, I'm kind of glad her royalties have never included money from me. But I digress.
I became aware of Lou the way thousands of others did, maybe millions - "Walk On The Wild Side". The "Transformer" album became ingrained in my consciousness. As for "Walk", I finally got to play that glorious bassline in 2010, in a blues trio, and it lit me up. It was so unlike what I would ever think would reach me in rural West Virginia - it told me, along with bands like Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath, that there was a lot of excitement out there waiting for my ears and heart to revel in. I was, yes, transformed.
Nothing could have prepared me for the next album, "Berlin". The lyrics were intense. The beautiful, mournful music lay underneath it like a cloud catching a falling star. I'm not sure melancholy and regret have been captured like that anywhere else in rock. Certain songs get to me sometimes; this entire album got to me, and still does. I once covered the song "The Kids", and barely made it through without crying at the end. I haven't tried it again since, but hope to soon.
Reed continued to fly all over the musical map, from the hard-edged soul of the "Sally Can't Dance" album to quieter introspection on "Coney Island Baby", to his Broadway-like take on Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven". His last album was a New Age instrumental album for meditation. And, I add, he did it all well.
I saw Lou Reed twice, and met him once. The first sighting was in Orlando on his "New York" tour. After the show I managed to catch him at the stage door. I got two autographs - one on the program for me, one on the ticket to mail to my friend who had first introduced me to Lou's music. Lou was impressed. "You're a good friend, and you have good taste in music," he said as he shook my hand.
The second sighting was unexpected and sublime - I was seeing his wife Laurie Anderson in performance at the University of Florida's theater, and he came onstage to perform a couple of songs with her. The first was abstract, an improv. The second was a tender, devastating duet called "The Lost Art Of Conversation". Not only did Lou still have it, he found someone to share it with.
I listen to Lou often - he sounds great as I wind down late at night, he pulses when I turn him up on the car speakers. There's at least one classic on every album as far as I'm concerned.
I kind of knew his end was coming - he had a liver transplant months earlier, and in the only recent picture I'd seen, he was jaundiced and frail. It still didn't make it easier to hear of his passing - I shed a few tears. The last musician I did that for was John Lennon, and both he and Lou influenced a lot of my own music. The original tune I get the most requests for, "Bethesda", came right out of Lou's playbook - tell an eloquent story, add a twist.
Lou caught some flack for "talk-singing", to the point of never being able to do a song the same way twice. It didn't bother me much - it was Lou, after all. Talent like that rates a lot of forgiveness as far as I'm concerned.
So I'm sad for Laurie, and Lou's friends and fans, who have lost a true original who helped everything from glam to punk to grunge get a foothold (listen to "The Blue Mask" and then amaze yourself at how it seamlessly blends the latter two). And I'm sad for myself; I was always waiting with bated breath for the next album, and unless the often-repeated parade of outtakes starts hitting the market, that's over with. And outtakes make me feel guilty, because I know I'm listening to songs the artist really didn't want heard. So I'll stick with what I have.
What I have is a lot. Lou Reed's music could make me smile, cry, seethe, and rock like a mother, sometimes all during the same song. He gave it all to his music, and left a legacy and a catalog that will keep me happy until the day I leave the plane as well.
Thank you, Lou. Peace
and love to you, Laurie. And condolences to us all.
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