Monday, October 28, 2013

Spotlight: Lou Reed (1942-2013)

"How could time go that quickly? It never ceases to amaze me," Lou Reed said. "The other day I was 19, I could fall down and get back up. Now if I fall down you are talking about nine months of physical therapy."
The Guardian:
Lou Reed, lead singer of the Velvet Underground, veteran chronicler of life's wilder, seamier and more desperate side and one of the most influential and distinctive songwriters of his generation, has died at the age of 71.

A heavy drinker and drug user for many years, Reed was suffering from liver failure and received a liver transplant earlier this year at the Cleveland Clinic.

Reed's literary agent, Andrew Wylie, said the musician died on Sunday morning in Southampton, New York, of an illness related to the transplant. His UK music agent, Andy Woolliscroft, confirmed the news to the Guardian earlier on Sunday night, saying: "Yes I'm afraid it's true. I'm very upset."

John Cale, his longtime friend and a founding member of the Velvet Underground, said: "The world has lost a fine songwriter and poet … I've lost my school-yard buddy."

Tributes from musicians and writers were quick to appear on social media.

David Bowie said on his Facebook page: "He was a master." Iggy Pop called it "devastating news". Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth wrote: "So sorry to hear of Lou Reed's passing this is a huge shock!" The chef and author Anthony Bourdain quoted the Velvet Underground's song Sweet Jane: "'Heavenly wine and roses … seem to whisper to me … when you smile' … RIP Lou Reed." Lloyd Cole wrote: "Without Lou there is no Bowie as we know him. Me? I'd probably be a maths teacher." Ryan Adams said only: "Lou Reed."

Some have argued that Reed was one of the most crucial innovators in rock music’s history. His debut album with the Velvet Underground, 1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico, stands as a pivotal rock album for its abrasive style and taboo subject matter that addressed drug abuse, prostitution and challenged sexual mores. The band's influence on rock, art rock and punk was memorably summed up by Brian Eno's observation that although the first Velvet Underground album may have sold only 30,000 copies in its first few years, "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band".

After making his name with the Velvet Underground and forming part of Andy Warhol's Factory scene in New York, Reed entered the similarly decadent orbit of David Bowie and Iggy Pop in the early 1970s. He was considered an enigmatic figure in rock music, and his solo work was the subject of much scrutiny by rock scholars of his era following the release of solo albums Lou Reed, Transformer and Berlin.



My Morning Jacket, who have been known to cover Velvet Underground songs in the past, were joined onstage by Neil Young, Elvis Costello and Jenny Lewis during Sunday night’s performance to pay tribute to Reed. As they were preparing to play, My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James opened by saying Lou Reed was “one of the greatest composers, artists, musicians that walked the face of the Earth. So this one’s for you Lou.” The group then performed a moving, 10-minute rendition of Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin.”

More information:
» The Guardian: Interviewing Lou Reed in 2003

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