Monday, October 28, 2013

On Lou Reed, From a Non-Fan

"My God is rock’n’roll. It’s an obscure power that can change your life.”--Lou Reed, March 02,1942 – October 27, 2013

It’s an interesting challenge, writing about someone for whom so much has been said and written about over the past couple of days. Suddenly, it seems, everyone is talking about Lou Reed…even people you’d never imagine knew anything about his material. (Hollywood being what it sometimes is, I suspect many of them actually don’t.)

Here’s something you won’t likely read or hear among the accolades today: I wasn’t a fan.

It’s true...Despite his legendary status (and our shared last name), I just couldn’t get into his music, no matter how hard I tried…

…And tried I did, because almost every artist or songwriter I’ve ever liked, respected, or worked with is a huge fan of Lou Reed’s music. (The famous Brian Eno quote that the Velvet Underground's debut album only sold 30,000 copies but "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band” is infinitely accurate.) I’m a believer in listening to your influences’ influences, because listening to the music that inspired your favorite artists brings new understanding and dimension to the music you already love. It can also open new doors to your own creativity by making you see things in a different way.

In the case of Lou Reed’s music, his music just wasn’t my thing. His vocal style put me to sleep, and I habitually switched stations whenever the intro to “Walk on the Wild Side” began playing on the radio.

I even—and this is truly a sin—turned down free tickets to a Lou Reed show my former boss produced at an intimate venue. (I know, I know…)

I do get it, though. Lou Reed’s vocal style and subdued delivery truly did fit his lyrics perfectly. He was a brilliant storyteller and lyricist who respected the power of the perfect word. Reading Lou Reed’s lyrics on paper, I always find something—a storyline twist, a turn of phrase, a lyrical smirk—that makes me think, “God, what an incredible writer.”

I just couldn’t stand to listen to the guy!

But I deeply respected him. And the honesty in his lyrics. And the fearlessness he often seemed to have in his interviews, when he chose to give them. (His reluctance to give interviews? I respected that, too.)

Most of all, I respected Lou Reed’s ability to be himself in a business that sometimes tries desperately to have you be anything but. From being an integral part of Andy Warhol’s Factory, to a heroin user who wrote about life in the Bowery, to a sober and devoted practitioner of T'ai Chi, Lou Reed led many lives--yet he seemed to inhabit each of their accompanying skins equally true to himself.

And he was damn cool.

Hey, maybe I’m a Lou Reed fan after all.   

 © 2013 Randi Reed and All rights reserved.