10 Essential New York Artists: #10 Lou Reed
The quintessential New Yorker will not be erased! Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed’s companion since the early 90s and wife from 2008 until his death in 2013, spearheaded the effort to present his complete archives to the NYPL in March.
Lou Reed became synonymous with New York personifying its street smarts, experience, skepticism, and most of all, its cool. His songwriting was unflinching in its depiction of gritty urban life full of drugs and sex. New York and its inhabitants were often characters in his songs. He immortalized the old factory crowd in his most popular song chart-wise, Walk on the Wild Side from the David Bowie produced Transformer in ’72. He mythologized the city’s seaside resort in the Lower Bay with the song and album Coney Island Baby in ’76 and saluted Brooklyn’s signature beverage, the egg cream, with the opening track on Set The Twilight Reeling twenty years later. On the New York album from1989, Reed turned his extraordinarily keen eye on the five boroughs like never before; lovingly devastating the town in a brilliant song cycle mixing actual characters like Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan with fictional characters like Pedro at the Wilshire Hotel.
Born in Brooklyn on March 2, 1942 – Lou spent the first nine years of his life in Kings County before moving to Freeport, Long Island at the age of nine. Lou’s sister Merrill, who spoke at the press conference last Thursday, wrote this excellent article that disabuses some of the misconceptions about his childhood. He graduated Syracuse university in ’64 and met John Cale in NYC where they hatched The Velvet Underground. Soon The Velvets were featured in Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia events. In ’67, while the summer of love flowered on the west coast, The Velvet Underground and Nico debut album came as from another world. You likely know the quote attributed to Brian Eno that everyone who heard it started a band. Lou Reed is as inspiring as ever and his archives are safe with NYPL.
Here’s some more with Laurie Anderson who confesses to, at one point, thinking Lou was British as well as re-enacting operas with him!