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Last words on Lou Reed

What is there to say about Lou Reed that hasn’t already been said?
His legendary status in music is forever sealed in rock ‘n’ roll history. The ease and delirium of the stream-of-consciousness poetry he spat over The Velvet Underground continues to resonate in the stylings of countless artists.

Though his lyrics were unmistakable products of scuzzy 60’s New York City, they transcended the limits of any era. He took the spitfire sublimity of beat poets like Allen Ginsberg and blended it with music, dance, art and whatever style complemented his words. The meaning always outweighed the medium.

Reed’s most significant contribution to music and culture at-large was not in the content of his music, but in the style in which he displayed it. The ultimate distillation of Lou Reed’s timeless importance came from an oft-quoted 1982 interview with Brain Eno where he stated that even though The Velvet Underground’s first album may have sold 30,000 copies, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”

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His tireless devotion to his own brazen aesthetics and brash whims crafted the philosophy of punk and indie rock before either word was in use.

Reed’s discography is brilliant, spotty, deeply confusing and highly contradictory. From collaborations with Metallica (2011’s maligned “Lulu”) to a double album of grating noise-dirges (1975’s “Metal Machine Music”), the one constant was that there was no constant.

He was a slave and ardent defender of his personal visions, even when they stood against any resemblence of popular (or independent) music. He was one the few musical journeymen to effortlessly dip in and out of radio-friendly melodies and divisive avant-garde styles.

Take 1972’s widely acclaimed “Transformer.” It was Reed’s first solo album and his first foray into commercial success, thanks to the popularity of laid back lead single “Walk on the Wild Side.” It’s hilarious that his explosion into popularity came from a song that openly romanticizes transsexuality, drugs and oral sex—all while remaining catchy enough for the layperson to hum on a sunny day.

It is practically impossible to trace the countless lines of Reed’s influence. Numerous genres (shoe-gaze, garage rock, punk, freak folk) have their roots embedded in his music, and novels could easily be devoted to Reed’s musical children.

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The easiest way to quantify his significance is to look to the many voices that have come out of the woodwork to voice their admiration for him. Patti Smith, David Byrne, John Cusack, The Who, Josh Groban, The Mountain Goats, Ryan Adams, Weezer, Miley Cyrus, Julian Casablancas, Stones Throw Records, Morrisey, Arcade Fire, The Arctic Monkeys, Henry Rollins. Even The Vatican’s Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi paid tribute to him.

Reed died from liver disease on Oct. 27 at age 71.

The news of his death was surreal. The man seemed like his music: immortal, untouchable by time.

Reed left behind a lifetime’s worth of music that will survive him, continuing to convert passive music listeners into full-time musicians, innovators for future generations.

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