The world lost perhaps the greatest rock legend of all time on Sunday when Lou Reed passed away at age 71. Reed, the frontman of the Velvet Underground created boundary-defying music that confidently ranged from sweet, poignant love songs to crashing, melody-less “metal machine music.” To be a Velvet Underground fan is to listen to all rock today with the thought, “it’s good, but this is just another guy trying to Lou Reed.”
It’s been about 24 hours since news broke of Lou Reed’s passing, but already there have been countless tributes written about the man who changed rock forever. Here are ten quotes honoring Lou Reed:
1. “The news I feared the most, pales in comparison to the lump in my throat and the hollow in my stomach. Two kids have a chance meeting and 47 years later we fight and love the same way —losing either one is incomprehensible. No replacement value, no digital or virtual fill…broken now, for all time. Unlike so many with similar stories—we have the best of our fury laid out on vinyl, for the world to catch a glimpse. The laughs we shared just a few weeks ago, will forever remind me of all that was good between us.”
“The world has lost a fine songwriter and poet… I’ve lost my ‘school-yard buddy’”
-John Cale, Velvet Underground cofounder
2. “Lou Reed is the reason I do everything I do.”
-Julian Casablancas, frontman of the Strokes (and if that sounds like hyperbole, listen to a Velvet Underground album and then listen to a Strokes album).
3. “No words to express the sadness at the death of Lou Reed. He had been there all my life. He will always be pressed to my heart. Thank God for those like Lou, who move within their own laws, otherwise imagine how dull the world would be. I knew the Lou of recent years and he was always full of good heart. His music will outlive time itself.
We are all timebound, but today, with the loss of liberating Lou, life is a pigsty.”
-Morrissey, frontman of the Smiths
4. “When I read ‘The Velvet Underground's first album only sold a few thousand copies, but everyone who bought one formed a band’ I understood my musical community.”
-John Flansburgh, of They Might Be Giants, referring to a quote by Brian Eno
5. "Without Lou there is no Bowie as we know him. Me? I'd probably be a maths teacher."
-Lloyd Cole, singer/songwriter
6. “So while I don’t do a lot of RIP stuff here I want to say I am literally pouring libations out onto my driveway for Lou Reed.”
-John Darnielle, frontman of the Mountain Goats
7. With the Velvet Underground in the late Sixties, Reed fused street-level urgency with elements of European avant-garde music, marrying beauty and noise, while bringing a whole new lyrical honesty to rock & roll poetry. As a restlessly inventive solo artist, from the Seventies into the 2010s, he was chameleonic, thorny and unpredictable, challenging his fans at every turn. Glam, punk and alternative rock are all unthinkable without his revelatory example. ‘One chord is fine,’ he once said, alluding to his bare-bones guitar style. ‘Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you're into jazz.’
-Jon Dolan, Rolling Stone magazine
Oh, it's such a perfect day I'm glad I spend it with you Oh, such a perfect day You just keep me hanging on (Lou Reed)— Gianfranco Ravasi (@CardRavasi) October 28, 2013
-These are probably Lou Reed’s most famous lyrics, from his legendary song “Perfect Day.” What’s notable here is that the person tweeting them is Cardinal Gianfraco Ravasi, the Vatican’s pontifical council for culture.
9. “The real list of who loved Lou Reed songs is probably something like “everyone,” though that doesn’t do much for anyone looking to find something to listen to right now. His work spans my life and is woven into it, and it is impossible to imagine my own imagination without thinking of the direction in which Reed told me to look.”
-Sasha Frere-Jones, the New Yorker
10. “He was as great an artist as it’s possible to be in my opinion.”
-Andrew Wylie, Lou Reed’s literary agent
Let's close this out with a little Sunday Morning. Perfect Day is the more obvious choice here, but putting this list together has me pretty emotional, and I could use the gentle stream of the first track off the Velvets first album: