Lou Reed (1942-2013)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

I’ve been under the weather the past two weeks, ever since getting back from Brooklyn, where I gave a poetry reading with Patricia Spears Jones. I was barely able to keep up with my teaching assignments, let alone post an entry to this blog. The news today of Lou Reed’s death sends me to the keyboard, though, despite still feeling less than at my best.

One of the best pieces I’ve read on Reed so far was by Greg Kot in the Chicago Tribune:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-lou-reed-dead-20131027,0,4221650.story

I dropped Greg a note to let him know how much I appreciated his article and mentioned that Brian Eno’s comment (“and everyone of them started a band”) was more accurate than we suspect, if we expand it just a bit to include all artistic activity. It’s certainly witty to say that everyone started a band, but the joke turns rambunctiously serious when one realizes that it is quite possibly true that everyone who bought the record did go on to do something artistic. A college roommate, Tony Landmesser, for instance, bought that first album and he went on to do puppet theater in San Francisco. Records were like books back then. “You’ve got to listen to this” was said with the same frequency and intonation as “you’ve got to read this.” I listened to Tony’s copy over and over, and it certainly was a touchstone as I went forward with my life as a poet and editor.

I doubt that Lou Reed ever understood the extent to which his work made an impact on an enormous variety of people. Just a few hours ago, I received a letter from Steve Axelrod, a literary critic of the first rank, which ended with the following quotation. My thanks to Steve for providing the best way to end this post.

This is no time for phony rhetoric
This is no time for political speech
This is a time for action
Because the future’s within reach

This is the time
This is the time
This is the time
Because there is no time

— Lou Reed (1942 – 2013)