Lou Reed’s musical legacy remembered and revered
By JONATHAN POLSON
Throughout his decades-long career, Reed defined and redefined the standards of rock-and-roll, poetry and artistry.
Reed’s early work transcended society’s notions of music in a time when rock-and-roll was still foreign.
He pushed the boundaries of lyricism, noise and performance and created music with an unprecedented level of commitment and emotion. Reed’s dedication to the art of songwriting remains unrivaled.
The indefinable work represented genres ranging from jazz to punk, intricately woven together with his oftentimes dark and enigmatic lyrics.
His poetic writing depicted complicated themes of sexuality, addiction and the experience of life that illustrated the overlapping pleasures and distresses within the world.
The straightforward lyrics of his songs are intimate portraits of the surrounding environment.
With a delicate attention to reality, Reed was a reporter of life, writing on what he saw and what he knew.
He confronted and embraced the dangerous, hideous moments of life, and crafted it into beauty with simple words.
The strict limitation to only a few guitar chords and Reed’s later ventures into more cacophonous sound accentuated the powerfully crafted words.
Fellow punk-poet and close friend of Reed’s, Patti Smith, noted to Rolling Stone, “One thing I got from Lou, that never went away, was the process of performing live over a beat, improvising poetry, how he moved over three chords for 14 minutes. That was a revelation to me.”
Reed’s work in the early 1960s, as a co-founder of The Velvet Underground, and subsequent solo career never achieved ordinary commercial success, but his music impacted and influenced the genres of punk, underground and glam rock.
His songwriting style influenced poets and rappers alike. Earlier this year, Reed wrote a review of the album “Yeezus,” celebrating Kanye West’s jarring, aggressive musicianship.
However, this influence is not restricted to musicians. Reed’s work impacted listeners throughout the years.
Personally, he changed the way I listen to music, and his unreserved depiction of the struggle and splendor of life remains a fixture in the way I experience the world.
Reed’s music was not always comprehensible or even pleasant, but it was always welcoming, intimate and honest; it demanded attention and, when given, the intoxication of his work affected me to my very core.
Even now, in an attempt to pay tribute to the revolutionary artist and personal hero,
I find it impossible to piece together words in a way that would serve Mr. Reed justice.
His work transformed my own view of the present world and revealed that beauty can exist amongst the thorny aspects of life.