Rick Robinson: Lou Reed Typified Cool
Lou Reed typified cool.
On Sunday, as I watched a cable television weekend desk jockey announce Reed’s death at age 71, I smiled believing that he would have somehow found the coverage amusing – people with no idea how cool Reed was telling the world he was gone. The anchor’s struggle to try and define what musical genre Reed fit into best defined the influence he had on music.
Most people watching yesterday’s news know Reed mainly for his 1972 classic Walk on the Wild Side – a solo tribute to the gender-bending fans he had met while performing in New York City as the front man for the Velvet Underground. The song never cracked the Top 10, yet 40 years later people still know all the words when it comes on the radio.
But Lou Reed was so much more than just that one song. He was glam rock before David Bowie. He was punk when Sid Vicious was still in school. Lou was a rebel poet with an ax and a driving bass line mapping his vision of where he should go next. Rock always followed.
What made Lou Reed so unique was that his simple but gritty lyrics defined a life that most of us listening never really experienced. Still Reed’s lyrics were so personal that each of us who listened felt like we were there – his voice convincing us that the song was written just for us.
No one covered Reed well. You can’t take one of his songs and dare to make it your own. It was perfect as he wrote and performed it. No one could make it more cool.
Just a perfect day,
You made me forget myself,
I thought I was,
A tribute clip of Wild Side:
Rick Robinson is an award winning novelist (and plays punk mandolin with little talent but a lot of gusto). His books (like Writ of Mandamus) can be found on Amazon, Nook and at bookstores everywhere. Like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter @authorRick.