Shereen Lisa Dudar
An obituary for a rock n' roll legend
Legendary rock musician Lou Reed passed away last week. His death was announced in the most emotionally exhausting manner—a bunch of reliable sources said he died, then a satirical website said it was a hoax, which we all desperately wanted to believe, and finally his death was confirmed again and everyone was sad.
Lou Reed was best known as the guitarist, singer, and songwriter for the Velvet Underground. The band was managed by Andy fucking Warhol, and now everyone correlates them with artsy bananas. The banana-adorned debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, was not received very well until after the band disbanded, but the cult following essentially included every rock band to precede them to this day. The album is all the over the place, from the harmonious bells on the opening track, “Sunday Morning,” which is reminiscent of a lullaby, to the ballads about drug culture like “I’m Waiting for the Man” and of course, “Heroin.” The lyrics portray a gritty society, full of expensive drugs, cheap sex, and rock n’ roll.
After a few more Velvet Underground albums and a self-titled solo album, the world received Transformer, a glam rock gift that the gods on Mount Olympus were almost too selfish to share with us plebeians. The breakthrough hit of the album was “Walk on the Wild Side,” which re-charted on iTunes posthumously.
Last spring, the University Art Museum showcased Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, a departure from conventional rock and the beginning of experimentation with industrial music and sound art. The hour and four minutes of feedback and guitar effects had no distinguishable structure or composition, but it was by no means random. The UAM created a sound room with 12 loudspeakers, where visitors sat in the middle and were surrounded by sound, similar to Reed’s experience onstage.
I went to the opening reception, and Lou Reed was there. He had everyone sit in a circle with their eyes closed, just listening to the noise filling the room. I was way too shy to go up to him and say anything; I just marveled at the legendary man before me. I did, however, find out Ke$ha was there, and proceeded to find her. The dance-pop sensation told me the Velvet Underground was a big influence for her, which seemed odd to me, but I realize now that what Lou Reed was doing in the Velvet Underground and as a solo artist could be appreciated by anyone with a pulse. His brand of rock music was experimental and artistic. That’s exactly what Ke$ha is doing, just with more glitter.
If you have any interest in rock or punk music, your favorite band has probably done a cover of a Lou Reed song. The list is endless: Bowie, Death Cab for Cutie, Duran Duran, and Joy Division. Even Susan Boyle—who, quite frankly, completely missed the drug references and turned “Perfect Day” into a choir song about sunshine breaking through the fog—was influenced by Lou Reed.
Lou Reed will live on through his music legacy and the species of underground velvet spider that has been named Loureedia after him. His influence transcends genres; he is beloved by established and aspiring pop, punk, rock, and even hip-hop musicians.