I’ve never been particularly emotional about the death of loved artists; people die, and 9 times out of 10, most of the artists I’ve cared about have been way past their prime by the time they died, so while it’s sad someone died, it’s not like sad because you were expecting MORE great work out of them in the future. I’d say that was definitely the case with Lou Reed, as he hadn’t done anything all that great in a long long time.
Having said that, I’ve always recognized that there were three artists who WOULD emotionally affect me when they died, if only because of the sheer scope of impact their work had on my life: Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and Lou Reed. (Though I kind of think David Bowie might be in there too.) And today I log onto the internet to find Lou Reed is dead.
When I was 16, I was listening to a lot of U2, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, and other of the “big name” classic rock bands, and then I started dating a girl named Rachel who loaned me two tapes she had, “Harvest” by Neil Young and “The Best of the Velvet Underground”, both of which became monumentally important to me for introducing me to those two respective musicians, who both became the cornerstones for pretty much all of my subsequent music. I’m sure I would’ve still been making music either way, but I have no idea what any of it would’ve sounded like without Neil Young and Lou Reed. As with most young musicians, I imitated both those guys shamelessly for years until I learned how to integrate their influences into my own voice, and even as the years went by and I accumulated more and more experiences listening to music by more and more musicians, widening the well I had to draw from, those two always stood as the godfathers of everything rock music is to me. Usually hearing someone whose music I love has died is sad; but today the world is a different place.
I always appreciated his lyrical style; I’m probably one of the few to have bought not only his box set, but the associated hardback book of lyrics he published around the same time. If Bob Dylan taught that rock lyrics could have more meaning that the standard pop tropes about love and sex and rejection, then Lou Reed expanded that lesson to show that rock lyrics could be used to describe, to document, to objectively show the ugly and the wasted sides of the world as well as the beautiful and the hopeful.
In retrospect, I’m really glad we got to do our VU covers show. I’ve been playing Lou Reed’s music for just shy of 25 years now. That was a nice capper to a quarter-decade spent treasuring the man’s art.
- Charlie Horshack, Linus Pauling Quartet