I was not going to write this post. It seemed indulgent and maybe a little pretentious to do so. After all I was far less familiar with Lou Reed the musician and artist than I was Lou Reed the cultural icon. I knew the song Walk on the Wild Side, and thought his rendering of Bob Dylan’s “Foot of Pride” in that revered poet’s tribute concert was the best part of the show. Beyond that, I was not terribly familiar with the man’s work.
I was, however aware of the man’s influence. I felt it in the attitudes of so many of my friends who were big fans, and how that attitude trickled down to me. Lou lived life on his terms, and more importantly, encouraged others to do the same. He was absolutely uncompromising in calling out our society on our insistence to engage in all sorts of petty hypocrisies and banal sentimentality. He had little patience for people who thought just clapping your hands and wishing for the best is enough.
He was a punk in the best sense, not so much creating his own rules as accepting that the rules of our society are so often arbitrary and based on the thinnest of principles. He laughed in our faces when we were so quick to pat ourselves on the back simply for not being monsters, especially when we gave our tacit approval to those that were.
He and his contemporaries tore down walls of “decency” and “normal” with vigor and ease and I do not know that we properly appreciate that. We were on a path to quiet acceptance of corruption, cruelty, and a reduction of culture to simplistic, comfortable tropes. Lou kicked that smiling beast in the teeth and opened doors to so much of what those of us who enjoy “alternative” or “underground” media enjoy today.
So thank you Lou. I will not be so brazen as to lie and say I was your biggest fan, because I barely knew you, but I do appreciate what I did know of you, and everything you did to make sure the Gray People did not take over our hearts and minds.