PRINT February 2014


Lou Reed

LAST DECEMBER, a little over a month after Lou Reed died—on October 27, at age seventy-one—Brett and Rennie Sparks of the gothic folk duo the Handsome Family were asked, at an event at the New School, how much his work had affected theirs. A lot, Brett said. “I’ve heard that Lou Reed could be kind of confrontational,” someone in the audience said. Funny how these rumors get around.

Lou Reed was confrontational about life. It might be a matter of staring life in the face, as he did in “Street Hassle” in 1978, a hipster’s tale turned into a stoic homily on fate; of humor rushing out in all directions, as in his hilarious stand-up version of “Walk on the Wild Side” on his live Take No Prisoners album from the same year; or of a slow, determined contemplation, as in his 1999 reading of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s 1927 “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” at a concert celebrating Harry Smith’s

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