All the good songs will, inevitably, fade away. On October 27th 2013 the 71-year long song of Lou Reed, eventually, has come to an end.
The news hit me like a hammer. I am not very much into persona cults, let alone treating my favourite musicians like gods. Still, it is different with Lou Reed, his death affects me and I have the need to contribute to the condolences expressed.
The question who Lou Reed was will not be the topic of this obituary, not least because this is, in my opinion, an impossible undertaking. What I can and will delineate in a few sentences here is, what Lou Reed was to me.
To start my story I have to go further back in my own life. We were about 14 years young and rebellious and always in search for something unusual, when we discovered an LP of The Velvet Underground in the attic of my neighbour’s father. This album with a banana on it, as well as the whole band, would acompany me from that moment on. With the album The Velvet Underground & Nico we found the most unusual thing we could get. In fact, it was the first piece of music that actually made me aware of music.
The beginning of my interest in music coincided with the advent of Napster, and before we even realised we became pioneers of a new kind of music consciousness, a generation that could access any music any time. Still, YouTube was far away and to download one MP3-song could last
half a day eternally back then. Also access to the Internet was rare.
After some time (months as I can remember) I had all the VU albums together. I know all of them by heart, they never got boring. On a school trip to England I bought a poster with Lou Reed on it, which for many years covered the wall of my teenage bedroom. We tried to imitate his coolness, while the others in our age wanted to be like Kurt Cobain or Billie Joe Armstrong.
Through The Velvet Underground I discovered Lou Reed’s solo career, as well as musicians surrounding his persona, like Iggy Pop, David Bowie, John Cale – all those, who finally got me into the more ‘darker’ side of music of The Cure, Siouxsie and Joy Division.
Not only that Lou Reed sharpened my consciousness for music, his influence also got me into reading Sacher-Masoch’s ‘Venus in Furs’ and grabbing my sister’s guitar for the first time to learn some VU songs. Since then there has hardly been a day, when I don’t play some songs on my guitar.
Through all these years Lou Reed became my personal legend. That he once could die was simply no possibility. In my opinion, The Velvet Underground was the grandest milestone and maybe the most under-rated band in popular music history (Brian Eno agrees on this). I mean, they were more than ten years ahead of their time, they were post-punk, before punk was even born (not considering, of course, The Who).
As I never had the chance to talk to Lou Reed himself, I can only do that post-mortem, here and now:
Lou, thank you very much for your musical efforts and for your (strangely positive) influence on my life. You will always be alive through your music, that’s why I don’t say goodbye.