Remembering Lou Reed

By Sarah Steighner

Lou Reed once sang “There’s a bit of magic in everything, and then some loss to even things out.” Considering the magical music of the Velvet Underground, this lyric seems rather prophetic now with the loss of Lou Reed.

The iconic American musician of the Velvet Underground died recently at the age of 71. Lewis Allan Reed was born on March 2, 1942 in Brooklyn. He died from liver disease on October 27 in his home in Amagansett, New York. Reed filled his life with many accomplishments, produced numerous albums, and inspired many.

Despite being occasionally underestimated or misunderstood, there should be no question regarding the magnitude of impact the Velvet Underground had in the music industry. Those who realize the full worth, substance, and uniquely raw style of the Velvet Underground will be quick to suggest that it has been one of the most influential bands contributing to rock music.

A number of the Velvet Underground’s songs stemmed from personal emotions and situations in Lou Reed’s life. For example, twice during his teenage years, Reed’s parents sent him to the Creedmoor State Psychiatric Hospital in Queens. There he received electroshock therapy. He recounted the bitter experience in his song “Kill Your Sons.” Later on in his life, during the 60’s, Reed became involved with heroin. Once again, his experiences could be found mirrored in his music, in this case the haunting song “Heroin.” Furthermore, in finding his life in his music is the song “Lou and Rachel,” named after a drag queen that he had lived with for a time in the seventies.

Gradually, after his time spent involved with heroin, Reed seemed to focus more on his health and sobering up in the eighties. In fact, he even practiced the Chinese martial art, tai chi. Reed was quite a focused and hardworking individual. After quitting the Velvet Underground in 1970, Reed still continued to pursue music through a solo career. Over the duration of 8 years between 1972-1980, he issued 13 studio and live solo albums.

In a Rolling Stone interview with British photographer Mick Rock, Reed conveyed his thoughts on how he hoped his music would impact others, stating “When they go home from one of my performances, I don’t want them to ever be the same again.”

Reed worked and collaborated with many influential and important people. Andy Warhol worked with the Velvet Underground for a period of time producing and even designing the iconic album cover to “Velvet Underground and Nico”. Reed had also worked with David Bowie, Metal Machine Trio, Laurie Anderson, and Metallica.

Lou Reed is a life and legend that will surely be missed. Luckily though, we have his countless recordings and the most meaningful of lyrics to keep reminding us of some of that “magic in everything”.

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