Lou Reed, singer, songwriter, guitarist and founding member of The Velvet Underground, passed away on Sunday, Oct. 27 at his Long Island home at the age of 71. Since then most publications have made it a point to write on the so called legendary musician, but unless you are well studied on the 70’s rock scene and have since kept up with Reed’s solo career, you probably could care less.
But now that everyone on social media is talking about him, aren’t you a bit curious about who this man was? Don’t you feel left out of the most prominent conversations this week?
Here I break down 5 reasons why you need to give a damn, or at least give you enough knowledge to join the conversation about one of the greatest musical acts in rock history.
5. Pioneer in creating a new sound in rock.
While many guitarists were concerned with extracting a clean sound from their instruments, Reed was the first to use his guitar’s feedback as part of his musical signature. He was able to use what many considered static noise and convert it into a beautiful sound.
4. Many musicians are indebted to Reed.
Although neither Reed nor his band reached the star status of The Rolling Stones or The Doors, many argue that if it weren’t for him, the punk movement and rock as we know it wouldn’t even exist. One fact that is unarguable is that countless artists owe Reed and The Velvet Underground lots of credit as they have done covers of his songs. Some musical acts include Nirvana, R.E.M, David Bowie, Beck, Jane’s Addiction and U2.
3. He was a well-studied lyrical master.
Reed is known for his affluence with words and poetic lyrics. Contrary to any stereotypes that we may have of rock stars being uneducated, the rebellious Reed became verbally adept after attending Syracuse University from which he graduated with honors in 1964. His biggest influence at the time was professor and poet Delmore Schwartz, who showed the musician that “with the simplest language imaginable … you can accomplish the most astonishing heights,” Reed said during his PBS American Masters documentary, “Rock and Roll Heart.”
2. He was more than honest.
Reed was real and raw when it came to honesty, taking audiences on nearly real-life experiences through his songs that dealt with taboo subjects like drug use, homosexuality, paranoia, sex and even electroshock therapy; topics which many bands at the time only brushed over.
1. A good musician is versed is his own genre, but a great musician sees past categories and knows that there is only good and bad music.
Even at 71 Reed remained one of the greatest artists because for him music surpassed the world of rock and it was more about innovative sounds. In July of 2013 Reed reviewed Kanye West’s “Yeezus,” for The Talkhouse. In the article Reed criticized some of the rappers contradicting lines stating that West “kind of wants to retain his street cred even though he got so popular.” On “‘New Slaves,’ he’s accusing everyone of being materialistic but you know, when guys do something like that, it’s always like, ‘But we’re the exception. It’s all those other people, but we know better.’” At the same time, he also praised the rapper’s melodies as “glorious” and concluded by saying “If you like sound, listen to what he’s giving you. Majestic and inspiring.”
Share your thoughts on the legendary musician on the comments below.