The influence of late punk progenitor Lou Reed stretched to the farthest reaches of pop culture. From rock legends Metallica and Mötley Crüe, to “Glee” star Darren Criss, from the movies to the theater, tributes poured in on Sunday (October 27) when news broke that the former Velvet Underground leader and solo star had passed at age 71.
Fellow punk legend Iggy Pop called the loss of Reed “devastating news,” while Crüe’s Nikki Sixx wrote simply, “Thank you for your beautiful/dark lyrics/music and stance on life. You inspired me from my teenage years right up till today.”
RIP Lou Reed. Thank you for your beautiful/dark lyrics/music and stance on life. You inspired me from my teenage years right up till today.
— Nikki Sixx (@NikkiSixx) October 27, 2013
Criss, who plays openly gay student Blaine Anderson on “Glee,” tweeted his grief, saying, “Very sad to hear the news of Lou Reed’s passing. Another rocknroll legend has left us mere mortals behind. Thanks for the inspiration, Lou.”
Very sad to hear the news of Lou Reed's passing. Another rocknroll legend has left us mere mortals behind. Thanks for the inspiration, Lou.
— Darren Criss (@DarrenCriss) October 27, 2013
Though Sunday was her day to celebrate, rock progeny Kelly Osbourne said it was, “Hard to celebrate your birthday when Lou Reed sadly passes! What an awfully sad day!” Who far did Reed’s influence reach stretch? Nick Fury himself, Samuel L. Jackson tweeted, “R.I.P. Loud Reed. Just met at the GQ Awards. The music of my generation. Still Relevant!”
During his life, Reed’s music was covered by many of his rock descendants, from Nirvana (“Here She Comes Now”), to R.E.M. (“Femme Fatale”), U2 and the Eurythmics (“Satellite of Love”). His biggest solo hit, “Walk on the Wild Side,” was sampled by a number of others, including Mark Wahlberg’s Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch (“Wildside”) and A Tribe Called Quest (Can I Kick It?”).
His work with the VU was also ripe for sampling, with musical lifts by everyone from Beck (“Countess From Hong Kong” on “Beautiful Way”), to Del the Funky Homosapien (“Train Around he Bend” on “Catch All This”), LCD Soundsystem (“White Light/White Heat” on “Drunk Girls”) and Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA (“Venus in Furs” on “Fatal”).
In addition to serving as a beacon for so many bands, Reed also played a role in passing the torch at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards, where he took the stage with Jack White to perform a revved-up version of the VU’s “White Light/White Heat” with the Raconteurs.
R.I.P. Lou Reed. Just met at the GQ Awards. The music of my generation. Still Relevant!
— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) October 27, 2013
Reed tried his hand at acting over the years, appearing in singer Paul Simon’s 1980 film “One Trick Pony” and director Wayne Wang’s 1985 movie “Blue in the Face.” But it was Reed and the VU’s music that had a huge impact on cinema, from the iconic use of “Perfect Day” in Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting,” to the somber cover of “Sweet Jane” by the Cowboy Junkies in Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers” and the VU b-side “Stephanie Says” in director Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums.”
Reed’s pioneering use of edgy subject matter (from gay prostitution to S&M and overt drug references) to his affinity for off-kilter guitar tunings and feedback also paved the way for several generations of rock, pop and hip-hop stars to do their own thing. Though Reed might have scoffed at the notion that his work had any ties to that of pop star Lady Gaga, it’s hard to picture Gaga’s envelope-pushing, gender-bending persona and close connection to the art world on her latest project, ARTPOP, without thinking back to the relationship between Reed, the Velvet Underground and pop art icon Andy Warhol in the 1960s.
Ditto for Nirvana, Green Day and Metallica, the latter of whom collaborated with Reed on the difficult album Lulu in 2011. Even Kanye West, a rapper whose beats and braggadocio seem worlds away from Reed’s more private, unflashy persona, might never have arrived at the searing combination of primal scream bombast and cathartic white noise on his Yeezus album had Reed not made such artistic connections between dissonance and melody decades earlier.
In fact, you might recall that back in July, Reed wrote a rather lengthy rave review of Yeezus, in which he said, “Very often, he’ll have this very monotonous section going and then, suddenly — ‘BAP! BAP! BAP! BAP!’ — he disrupts the whole thing and we’re on to something new that’s absolutely incredible. That’s architecture, that’s structure — this guy is seriously smart.”
Tributes also came in from Reed’s VU colleague, violist John Cale, who paid homage to a “fine songwriter, poet and ‘school-yard buddy,’” as well as Daft Punk collaborator and Chic frontman Nile Rodgers, 1980s new wavers Duran Duran, the Who, Billy Idol and actor Elijah Wood, who wrote, “May you forever walk on the wild side, Lou Reed.”
May you forever walk on the wild side, Lou Reed. Terribly sad to hear of your passing.
— Elijah Wood (@woodelijah) October 27, 2013
Some artists make an impact on the charts, some artists make an impact on their peers, and some create a lane that so unique and indefinable that they are their own island. Lou Reed was an island.