On Sunday morning, October 27, we lost a legend.
Lou Reed is no longer with us. But he lives on in his life’s work: a career spanning more than 40 years, and with an output to match. Mr. Reed always viewed himself as a poet, and even to the end he had a poet’s touch. October 27 is the birthday of the poets Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath. Even more coincidentally, and perhaps more poetic, “Sunday Morning” is the title of one of the most famous Velvet Underground songs, and a lullaby about the feeling that the whole world is behind you.
Born in Brooklyn in 1942 and raised in Freeport Long Island, Mr. Reed got his start as a songwriter for Pickwick records in New York City. While working there he met John Cale, and together they went on to form the Velvet Underground. They quickly gained the support of Andy Warhol, a famous po artist, who billed the band as the main event of his Exploding Plastic Inevitable project. While never very commercially successful in their own day, today each of their albums is critically acclaimed. Brian Eno often says that while the first Velvet Underground album may have sold only 10,000 copies in its first few years, “everyone who bought one of those 10,000 copies started a band”.
Mr. Reed’s influence as the front man of the Velvets was very significant. He penned some of their most famous songs, such as “Heroin”, and “Venus in Furs”. Starting a trend that would sustain him for his entire career, these songs are know for their poetic wording of challenging subjects, the former being about drug abuse and the second about BDSM and sadomasochism.
With a career spanning over four decades and songwriting credits on some of history’s most well-known and influential rock songs, Mr. Reed dies having left a universal impact on music fans.
After his work with the Velvets, Mr. Reed released more than 20 albums as a solo artist, and worked closely with artists such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Among other musicians, even the most accomplished like Bowie and Iggy, Lou had an incredible influence. Without his close relationship with both of those them, it is safe to say that they would not be the artists that they are today.
We have all lost an innovator, a rule breaker, and a true artist. In memoriam, take some time today to listen to Transformer, Berlin, or your favorite Velvet Underground album. Write some poetry. Live your life the way you want it. That’s what he would want.
Thank you for your work Lou. May you take a Walk on the Quiet side.
This article was assisted by Ellyn Bailey.