The ostrich guitarist and rock legend, Lou Reed, dies at 71. Whenever an inspiring artist dies, you feel as if a part of your childhood, teenage or history in general is missing. That happened with Michael Jackson before when he passed away in 2009 and now with Lou Reed. You feel lonely despite never getting the chance to even attend one of that artist’s concerts and you feel more melancholy if you ever got the chance to cheer him on as he rocked on his guitar, you miss that presence even if you had nothing to do with it. Great artists like Lou Reed, Kurt Cobain, Michael Jackson, Jim Morrison and others leave our world making us feel lonely, for knowing they will no longer rock our universe leaves a part of us hollow, as if one of our senses was lost.
Lou Reed found fame as a member of the cult band the Velvet Underground and as a solo artist. His music combined poetic lyrics, disturbing themes and thrashing guitar licks. Reed revolutionized the music scene by tackling topics considered as “taboos” back then, like transexuality, androgyny, domestic abuse and drug addiction.
His stage persona, dog collars and eye makeup, opened the door for rocks stars that succeeded him to take on extravagant, sexually ambivalent styles.
Reed and his band the Velvet Underground were not mainstream rock stars like “David Bowie” or “The Doors” but their music influenced generations and topped charts like Rolling Stone’s “top influential albums of all times” and “500 greatest songs of all times.”
It wasn’t just the sassy, deadpan voice or the powerful, shocking lyrics, Reed’s ambition was to devise what he called “musical literature.”
Reed aimed to inspire his audience with his songs in a way that defies normalcy:
“People say rock ‘n’ roll is constricting, but you can do anything you want, any way you want. And my goal has been to make an album that would speak to people the way Shakespeare speaks to me, the way Joyce speaks to me. Something with that kind of power; something with bite to it.”
Reed succeeded in doing so, with so many enigmatic songs he opened a whole new world of experiences and awakenings. Bowie once stated that when he first heard Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” he was sucked into it. It was more of a revelation to him.
Reed used the rejected, the unwanted as his song heroes. Male prostitutes, street hustlers, transvestites and junkies, those were his people, his heroes. He talked through them to a lot of people who probably felt the same, even sheltered in their own suburban lives. He spoke for the gay community openly way before any other artist of his time and his artistic self-awareness even gave his music more truthfulness. Reed has had a huge impact on the rock culture.
In one of his warmest albums “Coney Island Baby” he made a dedication to his lover then, a transgender woman named, Rachel. Reed sent vibrations of his connection with the underbelly of the city, allowed the heroes of his songs to grow on his own, and primitively showed us the world as they saw it. Through his heroes eyes we were exposed to an alternate universe that might be darker than what we see daily, but nonetheless realistic.
Lou Reed died of liver transplant complications at the Long Island home he shared with his wife, experimental artist and musician Laurie Anderson. Though he departed the world at 71 years of age, he will live forever in the hearts and souls of all rockers and fans of the rock genre.
Listen to one of Reed’s iconic songs “Perfect Day”:
Written by: Jaylan Salah
Rocker Lou Reed inspires millions even after his death