Monday, October 28, 2013

Rock legend Lou Reed dies at 71

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Reed never approached the commercial success of such superstars as the Beatles and Bob Dylan, but no songwriter to emerge after Dylan so radically expanded the territory of rock lyrics. And no band did more than the Velvet Underground to open rock music to the avant-garde — to experimental theater, art, literature and film, to William Burroughs and Kurt Weill, to John Cage and Andy Warhol, Reed's early patron.

Indie rock essentially begins in the 1960s with Reed and the Velvets; the punk, New Wave and alternative rock movements of the 1970s, '80s and '90s were all indebted to Reed, whose songs were covered by R.E.M., Nirvana, Patti Smith and countless others.

"The first Velvet Underground record sold 30,000 copies in the first five years," Brian Eno, who produced albums by Roxy Music and Talking Heads among others, once said. "I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band!"

More here.

Okay, I have to admit that I've never been much of a Lou Reed fan.  I mean, sure yeah, I definitely like some of his stuff.  I just never did like it enough to get my own copies of anything.  He never did it for me like Dylan, or the Beatles, or even Steely Dan, for that matter.  So why do I value him enough to observe his passing here?  That's easy.  To me, Reed was the epitome of white cool--this comes with the assumption that "cool" was invented by black people, and that, consequently, black people tend to do "cool" better than white people.  So Reed was just about as good as it gets among white Americans.

I loved his anti-hippie attitude.  I love how he represented so well my concept of the filthy 70s New York hipster.  I loved his chronic disdain.  I loved his sunglasses.  I love that he took art seriously.  I loved his almost uncaring, chant-style approach to singing.  I loved the sleazy images in his lyrics.  He was just one of those people whose existence I deeply appreciated.

Farewell, Lou Reed.  You were the coolest white guy ever.