I, like many other music fans, am mourning the death of musical pioneer Lou Reed. From The Velvet Underground, his solo work, and his countless collaborations with other musicians, Lou was at the forefront of musical innovation. His influence has inspired many artists and on October 27, 2013 people as diverse as Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers to even the Vatican took to their Twitter and other forms of social media to express their grief.
Remembering Lou Reed
Perhaps best known for his 1972 album Transformer, Lou Reed had actually been involved in music since 1964 when he had a minor hit with the parody song “The Ostrich”. From that point on he was the founder of arguably one of the most influential bands of all time, The Velvet Underground, and performed plus collaborated with artists like David Bowie and Metallica. His music is timeless and though he is gone, it will live on forever and will continue to inspire music fans of all ages.
Sometimes an artist or band just sticks with you. I find that I associate music with memories and feelings more so than most people. In this case, I associate The Velvet Underground’s 1967 debut “The Velvet Underground & Nico” with a very trying time in my life three years ago.
Sunday Mornin’, Praise The Dawnin’
I met Brian (real name withheld out of respect for his family/friends if they should ever read this) when I was a sophomore in college and almost immediately became infatuated with him. He had such a sense of style when it came to music that I instantly was hooked. The first time I actually went to his apartment, we spent most of the night talking about what we liked in a song and our favorite artists. At the time I was listening to a lot of The Decemberists and Rilo Kiley and found it really hard to get “into” a new artist/band. He knew I studied art history and was very surprised to find out I wasn’t a fan of Andy Warhol. After explaining my reasoning, he pulled up his music library and said, “Wait until you hear this… at least you might respect this aspect of his work”.
What I heard was something that sounded so familiar, but yet so different from the music of the 60’s. From the beginning notes of the Celesta to the brief, chugging guitar solo, “Sunday Morning” was so gorgeous that I was instantaneously hooked. I can say, looking back, I had fallen in love with Brian right then and there and it was all to the soundtrack of The Velvet Underground. I became obsessed with everything VU. I started reading up on Nico and her tumultuous relationship with both Reed and John Cale. I tried my hardest to learn the songs on a guitar but it never sounded as raw as it did on those recordings. Brian and I even decided “our song” would be “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and whenever it came on, we’d hold hands and enjoy the beauty of being in love and taking in the band as if it was fresh air.
I ended up buying the album on vinyl and debated whether or not I should keep it for myself or give it to Brian as a Christmas gift. I ended up giving it to him, wrapping it in clippings of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe prints and writing, “I still hate Warhol.” In a little note attached. He loved it and we listened to it on his record player the next time I was over. In retrospect, I should have kept it for myself, and to this day, I still don’t have my own copy.
Sunday Mornin’, And I’m Fallin’
Brian left me in July of 2010. I don’t think I have ever cried so much in my life and at that time, I considered him to be the most important person I had ever met. Through his introduction of VU, I also began to listen to a lot of other artists like Iggy Pop and David Bowie among others. For a long time, I stopped listening to the band all together. It was painful, especially since every song I could correlate to a memory of Brian.
Three years later, after never hearing a word from him, I found out through the internet Brian had passed away. In fact, he had passed away the year before. Even though I had found a new boyfriend, one who is the love of my life, I felt like a piece of me had died. Oddly enough, I had just purchased a remastered copy (on CD, still do not have it vinyl) of the album that Brian had taught me to love so much and for about a month straight, it was all I listening to. It brought me so much comfort in a time of sorrow and I began to become reacquainted with all things VU. I also added a rare live recording of VU (post-Nico) on vinyl to my growing collection. Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground gave me more hope and happiness than any therapist ever could.
When I found out Lou died, in a way, it was like losing Brian all over again. His music was so beautiful and unique. He literally epitomized “cool” and any musician who says they were not at least a little influenced by his work is a filthy liar. I am not a believer in the afterlife, but I hope if there is a Heaven, Lou Reed is up there with Nico and his other bandmate, Sterling Morrison, doing a kick-ass Velvet Underground set.
Take a walk on the wild side, Mr. Reed.