Monday, October 28, 2013

RIP Lou Reed

"Her life was saved by rock & roll," is a sentiment felt by many of us at Berklee, which makes the October 27 death of Lou Reed, who penned those lyrics, particularly poignant.

The Velvet Underground, Reed's band with John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen "Moe" Tucker and Nico, created the concept of the permanent underground in popular music, a destination unto itself rather than as a way station to mainstream fame. Reed sang overly of drugs ("Heroin") and sex ("Venus in Furs") when others had merely alluded to it. Brian Eno famously observed that few people bought their 1967 debut The Velvet Underground & Nico (CD 241), but “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” Their intentional minimalism set the stage for punk, earning Reed the designation as a godfather of the genre. "Sweet Jane" from Loaded (CD 11410) contains the riff that launched a thousand ships. Their influence can be heard in every band that glorifies droning or that harnesses feedback, m b v (CD 35402) by My Bloody Valentine being just one of the most recent examples.

As a solo artist, Reed would have his biggest hit with "Walk on the Wild Side" from his 1972 album Transformer (CD 13384). 1975's Metal Machine Music (CD 23521) was notoriously unlistenable but showed his willingness to experiment. Reed continued to earn acclaim later in his career with albums such as New York (CD 219), which celebrated the grittiness of his home, Songs for Drella (CD 23523), his reunion with John Cale to pay homage to their deceased mentor Andy Warhol, and Magic & Loss (CD 464), a moving rumination on mortality inspired the cancer deaths of close friends.

Dive into our collection for more materials by and about the Velvet Underground or by and about Reed.

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