This is our truth, tell us yours
Lou Reed has passed away.
As a seminal influence he affected so many musicians I admired, all the way through to my current day obsession with the Manics. And yet he never resonated with me. For sure, Walk on The Wild Side is a great record, and a great example of how to use obscure language to get stuff past the BBC censors. Waiting For My Man is a great song, and Perfect Day is a masterpiece of obscurity.
It just never resonated. Most of Reed’s music didn’t. I was more impressed by Robert Wyatt insisting on being allowed on Top of the Pops in his wheelchair (so he could sing I’m A Believer) than anything Lou Reed did. And Reed is not alone. Iggy Pop leaves me cold. There is a special place in my personal hell for most of David Bowie’s output. Heroes are a matter of choice, and there may be something contrary about me that means I choose my heroes in a peculiar fashion.
The thing is, with heroes, they die. Unreliable bastards that they always are, they leave us. (I even googled Robert Wyatt to check if he was still alive). In that regard they’re like parents. Please take this as it is meant. I will not be as affected if your parents die, as I will be when mine die. Heroes and intellectual parents are like that too. We love them despite their faults. I don’t respect John Lee Hooker less because I’ve heard the story of the gig that inspired Nick Lowe to write Milk and Alcohol. By definition, heroes have feet of clay.
Many of those who grieve for Lou Reed will not have grieved over John Martyn, or Solomon Burke. Why should they? If Lou Reed doesn’t resonate with me, why should my heroes resonate with them?
Reed spoke to an articulate, clever, inquiring audience who miss him now, even though, if truth is told, his best days were a very long way behind him. That’s how hero worship works. I empathize with Lou Reed’s fans, not because of any special merit I ascribe to his work, but because I’ll be bereft when B B King passes on. Understanding how I will feel when my heroes go is how I understand how others feel when their heroes pass.