Remembering Lou Reed: Why The Velvet Underground Music Pioneer's Death Bums Me Out


album-Lou-Reed-TransformerIt happens every Sunday. As per Chanel family tradition, I make pancakes from scratch (no matter what you think of Martha Stewart, this recipe rules), fry up some bacon, and pour large glasses of orange juice for my crew. And EVERY single Sunday I get the Velvet Underground’s song “Sunday Morning” stuck in my head. It’s not even one of my favorite Velvets songs. I much prefer “I’m Beginning to the See the Light,” “Foggy Notion,” and “White Light/White Heat.” At our wedding reception, we made sure our DJ played the incredibly sweet “She’s My Best Friend.”

Lou Reed, the outspoken and often outrageous leader of the Velvet Underground, went on to an incredibly successful solo career, with such amazing sonic moments as “Vicious” and “Walk On the Wild Side.” And who can forget Metal Machine Music, the intentionally atrocious album he did to fulfill a record contract he wanted out of?

Lou Reed was notoriously abrasive and unapologetic, a man Rolling Stone called “chameleonic, thorny and unpredictable.” He was also an incredibly creative and talented legend whose career spanned five decades — fifty very productive years. He started in folk, then went to ’60s rock, to punk, and to doing a project with Metallica just a couple years ago. And now the music has stopped for Lou Reed — the singer/songwriter has died at the age of 71.  As of now, there is no report on how Lou Reed died, but this past May, he did have a liver transplant.

Lou Reed’s influence on music cannot be measured, but for me, his presence will be missed. As I write this, I’m listening to Velvet Underground’s self-titled second album on vinyl (yes, I STILL listen to vinyl). As a pseudo-intellectual hipster turtleneck-wearing teen, I listened to my dad’s Velvet Underground records over and over and over again. My parents were not big fans. They appreciated them in a way, but it wasn’t really their thing. I was filled with jealousy that my mom got to see the Velvets with Nico on their Exploding Plastic Inevitable tour, but she had said they were “horrible,” and it was a “total mess.” But in my mind, I think it still would have been amazing. Yes, “Sunday Morning” pops into my mind approximately 52 times a year, my husband often hums “She’s My Best Friend” to me, and “After Hours” still makes me tear up. (“If you close the door, the night could last forever, Leave the wine-glass out, and drink a toast to never.”) And also while writing this, my daughter is being forced to hear the off-key strains of Reed’s voice, and she keeps saying, “Could you turn that noise down?” I guess the Velvet Underground appreciation won’t be handed down to this third generation.

Lou Reed will be missed, and I think he knew it.

“All through this, I’ve always thought that if you thought of all of it as a book then you have the Great American Novel, every record as a chapter,” he told Rolling Stone in 1987. “They’re all in chronological order. You take the whole thing, stack it and listen to it in order, there’s my Great American Novel.”

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