Our rock critic Ken Tucker shares his thoughts on Lou Reed, who died over the weekend at the age of 71:
Lou Reed was not out to make rock & roll fun (though he did, on songs like “Walk on the Wild Side” and albums such as 1972’s Transformer) or complex (though he did, using his monotone drone and a couple of guitar chords to craft music of great emotional and intellectual struggle, passion, and release), or sincere (though he was, slipping free of the carapace of irony most stunningly on my favorite of his albums, 1982’s The Blue Mask). What he wanted most of the time, onstage and off, was to convey the seriousness of an artist who probably felt he was working in the wrong form to convey that seriousness, but what could he do? Like so many of us, he was in thrall to rock’s power and its magical ability to be so many ambiguous, moving things to so many people. He’ll go down as an ultimate “New York rocker,” as a master of gender-bending poses and remarkable hostility toward the rock criticism of writers like Robert Christgau and Lester Bangs, who admired him extravagantly. One of his Velvet Underground anthems was “I’m Waiting for the Man.” Reed, however, was nobody’s man; he was probably a wonderful man to those he loved most dearly; Reed was a man apart.
— Ken Tucker
Watch Lou Reed’s cover of a Blind Lemon Jefferson song