Lou is dead
“LET’S FACE IT”, wrote Elizabeth Wurtzel in her 1985 award-winning essay for the Harvard Crimson, “Lou Reed should be dead.”
Describing the Velvet Underground lead singer as the only surviving member of the true rock star generation – all destined to die around the age of 27 – Wurtzel saw Reed as never settling for anything. Not even death, despite spending his life addicted to drugs and other things not beneficial for his health. Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.
On October 27 2013, aged 71, Lou Reed died. Suffering from liver failure, he had received a transplant earlier this year, but age and years of drinking had weakened his body beyond repair. “The other day I was 19,” he said, talking about how fast time passes.
I don’t want to come across like a mid-20s hipster, pretending to care about music that was released years before I was even born and that I’ve only listened into after Reed’s death, because it’s cool now. I cared about Lou Reed, even before he passed away, because his music is connected to about every memory I have of the 1990’s. “The Velvet Underground & Nico” was played on repeat in my house, and I remember feeling astonished, for the lack of a better expression, at how the words affected me – despite not understanding English at the time. And I won’t ever forget the moment in “Trainspotting” when “Perfect Day” plays. Lou Reed is one of the very few musicians one can call legends without getting pustules.
Wurtzel’s essay on Reed won her the 1986 Rolling Stone College Journalism award – and well deserved I say. She reminded us that Lou Reed was always going against the grain, and was always more than a bit ahead. Diagnosed at 17 with mood swings and allegedly treated with electro shocks against “homosexual tendencies”, I suspect he had to come up with his own survival techniques. Reed made a conscious decision to live hard, and to create some simply great music along the way.
It all left its marks on him. Reed may have outlived like-minded spirits for many years, but eventually, it all caught up with him, too. So I urge you to all listen to “Perfect Day” right now in memory of Lou Reed, because it is an amazing love song – regardless of whether you interpret it to be addressed at an important person in Reed’s life or his drug usage.
Because we’ll have to face it: Lou Reed is dead.