Remembering Lou Reed
I grew up in the 60's and 70's, where music ruled my life. Singing along to Lou Reed's, "Hey Babe, take a walk on the wild side" back in Novemeber of 1972 when I was 14 years old, I remember feeling like I was as cool as Lou Reed sounded. Lou Reed died on October 27th, almost 41 years to the date of the release of the Transformer album that had that song on it. His wife, Laurie Anderson, wrote a piece for the Rolling Stones that touched me. Click here to read it.
Aile Shebar, a wonderful writer and friend, allowed me to share what she remembers about Lou Reed. It touched me as well, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
Lou Reed was a few years ahead of me in school when we were kids in Freeport, NY, and I was in 7th grade. He gave me my first smoke, a Camel cigarette, one day when we both ditched classes, an innocent moment that was so memorable, smoking became an addiction of mine for 30 years!
He was always in trouble - walking on the wild side in junior high, given to mood swings... a rebel and an iconoclast - but he was very bright, and was accepted at Syracuse University in spite of 'behavior problems' that became the cause of being 'treated' by ECT as a teenager, and the subsequent song, "Kill Your Sons".
At the time, Syracuse was a prestigious university for a Long Island Jewish boy to attend. Although he considered himself Jewish, he said, "My God is rock’n’roll. It’s an obscure power that can change your life. The most important part of my religion is to play guitar."
I went to all his party gigs with his first (local) band, the Jades, and even a couple of bar gigs, well before I was of legal age to get in - Lou got me false iD - and with enough make-up, and high heels I passed for 18.
In those days, my nickname was 'Hershey Bar'.
Flashing forward to reconnecting when he and John Cale were in the Velvet Underground, making the scene at Andy Warhol's Factory and Max's Kansas City, where a piece of Lumia (light art) I was involved in creating with Earl Reiback, a kinetic light artist I worked with in the later 1960s, hung on the wall. A friend was dating Cale and we were all living on the Lower East Side, in a kind of loosely extended avant garde 'family'. Head-y times and Lou was a seminal figure, already an alternative music icon, in it all.
In more recent years, according to my cousin, who was one of Lou's friends in high school and who had kept in touch, Lou had been seriously ill after years of drug addiction and alcohol, and as a result required and underwent a liver transplant. The cause of death is presumed to be a result of complications connected to the transplant.
Lou was always unusual... of course that was more noticeable in school, because he dared to be himself, regardless of the times we grew up in and his conditioning. His bi-sexuality was something he explored and celebrated, even though he was 'tortured' for being himself in his teens. He was always someone who defied all conventional labels and by being himself, which included horrific behavior at times, and soft, tender behavior at others, he gave permission to others to explore their shadow sides too.
I often felt his pain, as a young person, when kids mocked him or worse, but he had enormous creative power to express himself in spite of, or sometimes because of, the pain he was in... and to transform it into art. In the end he had the last laugh on our schoolmates, most of whom found another form of oblivion in which to live.
Grateful to him for being such an Original Human Being.
He lived his life in absolute totality, and while none of us would have guessed the extent to which his fame would reach back then, we were never surprised that his influence on music, lyrics and the 'counter culture' would become the stuff of legends. Lou was always larger than life... and will always be so now.
May he RIP, in Rock and Roll heaven, bringing the dark side to light.. and may he continue to Walk on the Wild Side with us all.
Aile Shebar is the founder of "Writing from the Heart"; A gifted Facilitator of Creative Writing, Coaching Writers, and Compassionate Editing. She is also the event producer at One Heart Productions, bringing wonderfully gifted and enlightened ones to the public.