Lou Reed died this past weekend; best known as the founder of The Velvet Underground, he transformed the rock landscape through, among other things, his lyrical deviance. For this he was beloved by other fearless rockers and observers, and we spoke with some particularly influential ones about Reed's legacy.
“My parents turned me on to The Velvet Underground when I was a kid. It left an indelible mark; it was noisy, poetic and street. It was art. It was a statement and it was confrontational in terms of everything that was going on socially at the time. Lou Reed was the embodiment of everything that I thought was cool about the NY scene. I can't think of Johnny Thunders or Television without thinking of Lou Reed or The Velvet Underground. He was the godfather of avant-garde punk rock.”
See also: Henry Rollins' tribute to Lou Reed
Bob Ezrin, producer of Berlin
“Lou was the first person in rock music to write the unadorned, elemental truth about the urban street side of life. His piercing and deeply evocative songs gave us permission to make rock music with an R rating for the first time.
He was a pure romantic who fell in exquisite love with his characters and painted them as beautiful, no matter how ugly or painful their lives might have seemed to the uninitiated. He was a true master American street storyteller — easily as great as Bukowski or William Kennedy — except that he could tell a life in three minutes and it would come with its own rocking soundtrack. Honestly, he was the purest and most groundbreaking artist I have ever had the honor of working with. His work inspired and pushed young artists for over four decades to search for their true voices and never to compromise. But for me, more than any of that, he was the dearest of friends. I already miss him desperately.”
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, director of the documentary, Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart
“Lou was a man of monumental accomplishment and influence. The Velvet Underground would have been enough to have called him a legend. Lou's music is the music we hear in our heads every day. His lyrics are in our consciousnesses…He died with dignity, and turned something that you fear, death, into something that you accept. I'm amazed by him even in death. His strength was an inspiration to all those around him.”
Lita Ford, The Runaways
“Lou Reed was '70s glam punk, like the Runaways. We covered his hit song, 'Rock N' Roll' and released it on The Runaways Live in Japan. It kicked major booty! I don't think I could have grown up without, ''Walk on the Wild Side'' — “Plucked his eyebrows on the way/shaved his legs, then he was a she…” brilliant verse, touched me in a huge way. Lou is gone but never forgotten. He'll live forever in our rock n' roll hearts.”
Mick Rock, who photographed Transformer's cover
“He had a tough uncompromising public image. And he certainly didn't suffer fools gladly. But if he was your friend, he was one of the sweetest people you could ever know. For me it's very painful to grasp that I shall never spend time with Lou again in this world. I loved him for over 40 years since the night I shot the cover to his Transformer album. The angels will shower him with kisses. For them it's A Perfect Day. For me it's one of the saddest days of my life.”
Al Jourgensen, Ministry
“Rock n' Roll Animal, the live album is one of the greatest live albums out there. It was a huge influence on me. As well, Lou made “junky” cool, and that, obviously, had a major effect on me as a young musician.”
William DuVall, Alice in Chains
“Lou Reed will always be remembered as a songwriter who, like Dylan, forever expanded the subject matter of the rock n' roll song. But I was always equally fascinated with him purely as a guitar player. Listen to his solos in “I Heard Her Call My Name.” To this day, that is some of the most aggressively berserk guitar playing I've ever heard.
Or his “ostrich guitar” skronk in songs like “European Son.” Completely bananas. And this was almost 50 years ago! Lou said he was trying to approximate on guitar, what Cecil Taylor was doing on piano. I'd say he did a pretty bang-up job. The guy was bridging the gap between rock and free jazz when both were still relatively new concepts. Lou Reed invented avant-rock. Period. And he always made sure to look cool as hell while doing so. He will always be one of my greatest inspirations.”
Joseph Arthur, RNDM, Fistful of Mercy
“Lou was the best. My heart is broken and lost. Like losing the father of rock n' roll. And there will never be another.”
Stevie John Kalinich, poet
“The last time I had dinner with Lou and Billy Bentley, we talked about Brian Wilson and philosophy and meditation. He was the sweetest, kindest guy to me and he had strong opinions and a deep sense of spirituality. He always pushed the envelop– did unusual things, broke boundaries, took risks as a great performer. I love the guy and he made a deep impression upon me. It is a great and tragic loss. He was inspiring, a true artist in my estimation who left a ripple that will go on.”
Sandy Robertson, writer for British rock weekly Sounds
“I got into Lou Reed at the dawn of the '70s with the release of the Velvets' final album Loaded and the UK reissue of their ground-breaking trilogy of previous masterpieces. At that time nobody seemed to like them in Britain, with the exception of Melody Maker's Richard Williams and a then one-hit wonder named David Bowie.
I got a gig as a rock hack at Sounds and found myself ushered into Lou Reed's scowling presence. In vain did I hope to gain surcease of sorrow by pleading that I was a fan. He could care less. He demanded I remove my specs because they had mirror lenses. So Lou Reed got to see my eyes, all the better to stare me down. I shoulda known better — Metal Machine Music's four sides of what sounds like a disconnected telephone line taught us to never know what was coming from the curmudgeon. What a rotter — what a genius. For the music he created I could forgive him just about anything.”
David Arnson, Insect Surfers
“Lou, Lou, I never thought that I would cry over. Today, I put on Loaded and when “Sweet Jane” came on, I started to sob. Lou, you were one big goddam magnificent talent and asshole, and I loved your music so much and the world owes you big for what you kicked into motion. You fucker, Lou, you made me cry! Sha la la, man…”
Chris Goss, Masters of Reality
“In NYC in the 1970s, Lou Reed was our looming guide in the shadows. The rock and roll heir to Burroughs, the new field commander for all the fledgling navigators of The Velvet Underground. For me, it was his stark naked humor that barely exposed itself in perhaps just one tiny increment of each song, crushing any romantic notions in the art of self-destruction. He'd done it all, said it all and lived it all. There it was. Find your own evaluation and explanation. For once and for all, rock and roll defined as a precisely fine art. No doubts. No debates. Your life. Your game. Our Lou Reed.”
Nick Tosches, writer
“Lou Reed was a brilliant man and a good guy. Why is it that the worthy among us drop like flies while those we wouldn't mind seeing dead go on and on and on? It's becoming harder and harder to hold on to those we cherish; harder and harder to outlive our enemies.”
Harvey Kubernik, music historian
“Lou Reed will always have a bio-regional literary and sonic history to Hollywood. On 1967's The Velvet Underground & Nico debut album, three of the recordings “I'm Waiting for the Man,” “Heroin” and “Venus in Furs” were recorded at TTG Studios with producer Tom Wilson and engineer Val Valentin. The facility was located on Highland Avenue near Sunset Boulevard. The group's entire 1968 third album, Velvet Underground, was cut at TTG, self-produced by the band and engineered by Valentin. While in town in '68, the Velvet Underground performed during a student assembly at Beverly Hills High School. Man, talk about getting or gaining real street cred.”
Gary Stewart, iTunes, former Rhino Records senior VP of A&R
“This is a man that understood the power of white noise, the vision of Warhol and depth of Delmore Schwartz, the purpose of confrontation and the beauty often inherent in the truly bleak — sometimes all at once.”
See also: Henry Rollins' tribute to Lou Reed
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