Staff Picks: Music

The Influence of Lou Reed

Brian Eno once said that there are two kinds of artists; those who influence the general public, and artists who influence other artists. It’s hard to imagine what the landscape of popular music would look like today without the influence of Lou Reed. Lou’s roots with the Velvet Underground helped pave the way for a multitude of others, and his career as a solo artist pushed the boundaries further still.

But even if you’re not a fan of Lou’s work, chances are that one of your favorite artists is. Imagine... had there been no Lou Reed or Velvet Underground, there would likely be no Patti Smith or David Bowie or Iggy Pop. There would have been no Talking Heads, no R.E.M., no Joy Division, no Sex Pistols, or no Television. No Roxy Music or Cars or Dream Syndicate or [insert most any other contemporary artist here]. From the dark streetwise tales of Heroin and Sweet Jane to the stratospheric drone of Metal Machine Music to the full-scale crunch of his collaboration with Metallica (at the age of sixty nine, no less), Lou never failed to push the limits, and the respect he earned among his contemporaries (and fans) is nothing short of astounding.

Thanks to Lou, our world is a much more interesting place. He will be deeply missed.

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Comments

I also felt a little twinge at the news- he was an icon. He continued to do some exceptional work even later in life- for example, his contribution to a rather recent Antony & the Johnson's album- introductory vocals on the dark yet upbeat song, "Fistful of Love"- were minimal, but opened the song in a way that made its crescendo all the more exciting and satisfying. The feminist in me must say, though, that attributing any noteworthiness or appreciation of the work of Patti Smith to a road Lou Reed paved does something of a disservice to the many female artists, who, to this day, many insist can't "rock!". I don't doubt that the one female on the above list had to do some of her own paving in that white male dominated music scene, and would've garnered some measure of success, (however one measures these things) based on her own talents.
You're probably right, Andrea... my list was a bit one-sided - didn't intend it to be so. You could easily add Sonic Youth, Lone Justice, Cowboy Junkies, Emmylou Harris, and a thousand others... And don't misunderstand me... I'm a huge fan of Patti's work, too, and fully realize her own tremendous talent. My point was that many many many artists (both male and female) have drawn (and perhaps continue to draw) influence from the Velvets. The NYC underground (and rock 'n' roll in general) owes a great debt to Lou and Nico and John et al.