Opinion: Remembering legendary rock ‘n’ roll avant-gardist Lou Reed

Megan Brown

Megan Brown

Megan Brown is a sophomore news major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

The music world lost an innovative individual this week as Lou Reed — iconic lyricist, musician and rock ‘n’ roll poet — died. Reed started his music career during the 1960s with the highly influential rock band, The Velvet Underground.

Their 1967 debut album, “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” is one powerful record; it is a must listen for all music lovers. Each song has such diversity and really showed contrast to the “peace and love” vibrations happening around them. Songs like, “Venus in Furs” and “Heroin” are simply magical and could be listened to for hours on repeat — Reed was a genuine poet. The iconic cover of the record, a yellow banana, is the artwork of Andy Warhol, who served as the manager and producer of the band for a short period of time. The album only sold 30,000 copies in its first five years, but it’s still considered a classic.

The Velvet Underground went on to make four more albums before Reed’s departure from the band in 1970. Hits like “I’m Waiting for the Man,” “Sweet Jane” and “Sunday Morning” are a few of the songs they beautifully put together.

Reed, unlike others, took his lyrics into a darker side of poetry. He was not afraid to push limits or go against boundaries when it came to making music.

I don’t believe many musicians would be who they became without the music of the Velvet Underground. Musicians like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Roxy Music and Nirvana were all highly influenced by the avant-garde, unpredictable music of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground.

As a solo artist, Reed found success with his second album in 1972: David Bowie-produced “Transformer.” A radio hit from the album, “Walk on the Wild Side,” hints to the time of his Warhol Factory days. The song has a laid-back feel to it with a distinct baseline and chorus. The song describes different characters based on followers of Andy Warhol’s Factory.

Reed spent most of the 1970s rebelling against expectations. He made the music he wanted to make. He didn’t care what anyone else had to say. Even in his 1982 album “The Blue Mask,” Reed made it very clear that the 60s crowd could find relevance in the new decade. Songs like “The Blue Mask,” “The Heroine” and “Underneath the Bottle” show a great mix of lyrical poetry and rock ‘n’ roll.

I want the people of my generation and for generations to come to pick up a copy of a Velvet Underground or Lou Reed album and appreciate all Reed did for music during his 71 years of living. Whether it be on vinyl, CD or mp3, listen to the music. Reed was a legend and will continue to live on inside so many other talented musicians of all genres. His lyrics and music weren’t only unpredictable and inventive, they were life-changing.