Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lou Reed, R.I.P.

A music legend who was an icon, musically, artistically,
and politically, a man with fiercely loyal fans on both
sides of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, and an
singer, songwriter and musician with a deadpan voice
and poetic lyrics that captivated people around the world,
Lou Reed, passed away in mid-autumn at the age of 71.
Reed was the artistic driving force behind The Velvet
Underground, a band which he helped form in the
late 1960s which although was not a commercial success,
was in fact the catalyst for Reed and his unique brand
of music. It was said by English composer and musician
Brian Eno that although The Velvet Underground's
debut album generated only 30,000 copies sold
"everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies
started a band". Well, that may or may not have been
accurate, but their songs certainly caught the attention
and fueled the imagination of many aspiring musicians
in the day.

Leaving the group to go out on his own, Reed launched
his solo career in 1972. The following year Reed had his
first hit single "Walk on the Wild Side", a particular
favorite "70s rock song of your favorite Peasant's. Oh,
yes, I too enjoyed Lou Reed's songs, among them were
such great tunes such as "Sally Can't Dance No More" and
"Dirty Boulevard". Reed wrote songs that covered many
topics that some of his contemporaries were not comfortable
in bringing up; these included sexuality (Reed was bisexual,
and when in his teens was committed to a mental hospital
where he received electroshock treatment to "cure" him of
his bisexuality), drugs, the paranoia of urban night life,
domestic abuse, and the sense of inescapable despair that
accompanies such troublesome things.

His songs sparked a feeling of independence, adventure,
and a quiet sort of rebellion in Eastern Europe during some
of the most tense years of the Cold War. Reed himself was not
political in the sense of party politics and ideological preference,
but rather in supporting the marginalized in society, giving
them a spotlight and a voice in his songs without advocating
any particular remedy for their difficulties but always portraying
them and their plight sympathetically, always working to draw
attention to these people to make sure that their situations
were acknowledged and their stories heard. He simply wanted
people to care.

Lou Reed was truly in a class by himself. May he rest in peace.


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