When the great Lou Reed died at a very old 71, he made the front page of every New York daily except the Wall Street Journal.
Monday’s Page One New York Times obit by Ben Ratliff:
LOU REED, 1942-2013
Outsider Whose Dark, Lyrical Vision Helped Shape Rock ’n’ Roll
Lou Reed, the singer, songwriter and guitarist whose work with the Velvet Underground in the 1960s had a major influence on generations of rock musicians, and who remained a powerful if polarizing force for the rest of his life, died on Sunday at his home in Amagansett, N.Y., on Long Island. He was 71.
The cause was liver disease, said Dr. Charles Miller of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where Mr. Reed had liver transplant surgery this year and was being treated again until a few days ago.
Mr. Reed brought dark themes and a mercurial, sometimes aggressive disposition to rock music. “I’ve always believed that there’s an amazing number of things you can do through a rock ‘n’ roll song,” he once told the journalist Kristine McKenna, “and that you can do serious writing in a rock song if you can somehow do it without losing the beat. The things I’ve written about wouldn’t be considered a big deal if they appeared in a book or movie.”
Or an ad? Reed played a starring role in this 1984 Honda scooter TV spot.
(There’s a great story behind that campaign, which the hardworking staff will recount some other time.)
Yesterday, a different Lou Reed ad ran in the Times on page A17.
Syracuse University. Who knew?
Apparently the Wall Street Journal’s Jim Fusilli, who wrote this appreciation yesterday.
From Underground to Mainstream
Lou Reed, who died Sunday at the age of 71, was an essential figure of American popular music since the arrival of the Velvet Underground in 1964. Reed created a new form of songwriting, one that merged rock’s power and energy with the gritty realism found in the poetry of Delmore Schwartz, his mentor at Syracuse University, and novelists as varied as William S. Burroughs, Hubert Selby Jr. , and writers from the Beat Generation and of hard-boiled pulp fiction.
(Hubert Selby, Jr. Flashback: We still get chills from reading Last Exit to Brooklyn four decades ago.)
Reed’s influence is so fundamental, it’s impossible to imagine contemporary rock without him.
Well, it’s without him now.