I know I usually write about multiple artists each week, and try to keep you up to date on some great new music, but this week has been all about remembering Lou Reed for me.  This week, I pay tribute to a music and New York icon. Here’s a look back at Lou Reed’s career, featuring quotes from Lou himself and others, iconic tracks from Lou Reed’s career, and a little biography and look at how influential he really was.


When I was asked write about Lou Reed, I was honored. Lou Reed and his music meant a lot to a lot of people, myself included.  Without the influence of Lou Reed, I don’t think any of us here at The Revue would have the same passion for music, not because we’re all huge Velvet Underground fans, but the influence Lou Reed had on music changed the course of the art form forever. I hope I can do him justice.

SUNDAY MORNING – The Velvet Underground & Nico

“The music is all. People should die for it. People are dying for everything else, so why not the music?”
Lou Reed

When I wrote about Dean Wareham a couple of weeks ago, I brought up The Velvet Underground’s influence on his music. The Velvet Underground are the forefathers of what became Punk Rock, Alternative Rock, and  New Wave. They were influential to Iggy Pop, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Sonic Youth, and The Pixies, now think about all the bands those bands influenced.  Without Lou Reed, we wouldn’t have bands like Nirvana, My Morning Jacket, Interpol, or The Strokes. Or if we did, they wouldn’t sound like they do today.

Lou Reed

Doubt I’d have gotten into music at all if it wasn’t for Velvet Underground. peace Lou. I’ll play your records for my grandkids someday.
The Antlers (via twitter)

It’s inarguable that Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground were among the most influential bands of the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Reed, along with John Cale created music that people had never heard before, instrumentally simple,  droning, experimental music with dark lyrics sung in Lou Reed’s distinctive voice. This caught the attention of Andy Warhol who would became their manager.  This led to the release of their first record in 1967, The Velvet Underground & Nico, which became one of the most iconic and recognizable symbols of the 1960’s. Its subject matter was ahead of its time, dark subjects ranging from drug abuse to prostitution.  Lou Reed wrote most of the lyrics for the album, inspired by writers of the Beat Generation, saying “That’s the kind of stuff you might read. Why wouldn’t you listen to it? You have the fun of reading that, and you get the fun of rock on top of it.”  Those lyrics along with some of the songs’ simple structures, for example “Heroin”, which is built off of two chords, inspired many musicians to start making and writing music.

VENUS IN FURSThe Velvet Underground & Nico

“There’s only X amount of time. You can do whatever you want with that time. It’s your time.”
Lou Reed

I remember the first time I really listened to that record.  For a while when I was in high school I was really into the music of the 1960’s and 1970’s, I listened to The Who and The Beatles almost exclusively for about a year, but one day I decided to try something “new” and sat down with this record.  I remember not really knowing what to think at first, even though I was into modern alternative bands like Interpol and Yeah Yeah Yeahs before really getting into classic rock, I was still mesmerized by The Velvet Underground & Nico at first listen.  Some parts of the record were beautiful, some raw, some droning and I can still recall sitting down, listening to “Venus In Furs” for the first time, and going back to play it again. Not because I loved it, but because I just needed to listen to it once more.  It was thought provoking, it reminded me of the first time I listened to The Who’s Quadrophenia, it made me feel something no other album has. I then dove a bit into The Velvet Underground’s and Lou Reed’s solo discography.

Lou Reed and Nico in the Studio

“”The first Velvet Undergroundrecord sold 30,000 copies in the first five years. I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band”
Brian Eno

After the first record, The Velvet Underground dropped Nico and Warhol and released three more records with Lou Reed.  They released White Light/White Heat in 1968, and The Velvet Underground in 1969. The final Velvet Underground record with Reed was Loaded, which their record company wanted loaded with hits. That record featured Sweet Jane, Rock & Roll, and Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ which are actually some of my favorite Velvet Underground songs. All four records earned spots on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list. After Loaded, Reed had a successful solo career, releasing another iconic and influential album, Transformer which contained “Walk on the Wild Side” among countless other records and collaborations.


“Lou Reed is the reason i do everything i do.”
Julian Casablancas of The Strokes (via twitter)

The morning after Lou Reed’s passing, I turned on my favorite local radio station, WFUV, which is based out of Fordham University in New York.  The DJs were just as sad to learn about Reed’s passing as I was and I was treated to a Lou Reed marathon as I drove to work that morning.   As a New Yorker, and a Long Islander, I grew up three towns over from where Lou Reed grew up, I felt like Reed belonged to the city, and in a city of millions, Lou Reed was one of the people who personified what it meant to be a New Yorker.  He became as much of a part of New York’s story as the Empire State Building.  I know people around the world have been mourning the loss of Lou Reed, but here in New York, not only have we lost one of the most influential musicians of all time, we have also lost one of our own. The last song WFUV played in that set was “NYC Man” which contains the lyrics “I’m a New York City man, blink your eyes and I’ll be gone” those lyrics had a different meaning that morning.

NYC MAN – Set the Twilight Reeling


“The world has lost a fine songwriter and poet…I’ve lost my ‘school-yard buddy’
John Cale (via facebook)

Lou Reed’s influence and impact is still felt today and will continue for a long as there is still music.  This weekend at Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit Concert, Neil Young, Elvis Costello, My Morning Jacket and Jenny Lewis performed “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” together in tribute to Reed. Pearl Jam, The Arcade Fire, Arctic Moneys, The Killers and of Montreal also paid tribute to Lou Reed this week, a mix of generations celebrating a songwriter whose impact will be felt for many more.

OH! SWEET NUTHIN’ performed by Neil Young, My Morning Jacket, Elvis Costello and Jenny Lewis

Top photo from LouReed.com
Picture with Nico from Steve Schapiro/Corbis


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