Today, Oct. 27, marks the one year anniversary of the death of Lou Reed, making the date a day to reflect and remember the icon one year later. Last year, Reed succumbed to a liver transplant procedure that his body did not accept, resulting in widespread grief in the music industry. It is important to not only reflect on Reed’s music, but also the immense, eternal impact it had on all of the music that followed as well.
Reed’s incalculable influence can be traced back to 1967 with the release of The Velvet Underground & Nico. A project funded by Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground never reached critical success during its time, though it found incredible success as its legacy aged. Brian Eno, one of the most acclaimed producers of the 20th century, was once famously quoted remarking that despite low album sales, everyone who bought The Velvet Underground & Nico started their own band. Eno was indeed correct, because the rock and roll, punk, metal, avant-garde, and rap movements trace lines back to Reed’s work in one way or another.
Without the Velvet Underground’s influence on music, a young David Bowie may never have found a love of the unnatural. The punk movement may never had understood how to articulate their pain and angst. Metal, avant-garde, and experimental musicians may never have questioned the dynamics of distorted sound without the infamous Metal Machine Music record. Needless to say, the Velvet Underground planted seeds of inspiration across the vast musical landscape of every decade that followed them. They always will.
Outside of the Velvet Underground, it is critically important that when Lou Reed is remembered on this anniversary a year later, he is also remembered for his solo catalog. When the Velvet Underground era came to a close, the pioneer initially struggled to find solid ground in the industry. Seeing an opportunity to aid his hero, David Bowie took Reed under his wing in 1972 for the landmark Transformer album. Tunes like Perfect Day and Walk on the Wild Side still remain Reed’s strongest impression he ever made on society. His music, however, would continue to grow and mature beyond Transformer through a myriad of avenues.
In 1973, Reed shocked the world with Berlin, the dark and forsaken story of a domestically abusive relationship. Much like the initial Velvet Underground records, this masterpiece would not be elevated to its proper status until years after the fact. One may even debate that as a result of the complexity of Reed’s repertoire, much of it was not fully comprehended by critics or the general public until long after its release. Furthermore, Reed continued to release a string of exceptional records: Ride Sally Ride, Coney Island Baby, The Bells, Legendary Hearts and New York to name a few.
On this anniversary, if listeners are seeking to immerse themselves for a short amount of time in the genius of Reed, they may want to consider his 1989 album, New York. New York may be the strongest point in the musician’s solo career, acting as a sociological time capsule of the late 1980s. The musicianship, lyricism, and performances capture the man at his finest. Recorded with a raw four piece band, the record was a stark contrast to the overproduced madness of the decade.
One could go for many pages and hours attempting to convey the importance of Lou Reed’s legacy and why he must be remembered this year and every year after with the respect he so deserves. Last year, Reed passed peacefully on a Sunday morning. Fans of the musician should take notice to this very important detail in his passing, for one of the most beautiful songs he ever composed was Sunday Morning. He left the world where he entered it, in New York. With that said, he left the world music that will be forever timeless and effortlessly inspirational. So today, music fans, go spin the Transformer record. Remember the King of New York, who once would only walk on the wild side, but now has a chance to take the peaceful route instead.
Opinion By Brett Stewart