Velvet Underground founding member Sterling Morrison died
earlier this year. In today's New York Times, a tribute to Morrison,
written by Lou Reed, was published. Here's some of what Reed has to say about
the Velvets' other guitarist.
"Sterling said the cancer was like leaves in
the fall, a perfect Morrison description; he loved the English language,"
writes Reed. "When I asked if he had a guitar to play, he said yes, he did, but
he had watched seven--he'd counted--seven layers of skin peel from his body,
and that had made guitar playing and quite a few other things painful. This eye
for detail was very much Sterling. In fact, it saved my life once. We were
playing in an airplane hangar in Los Angeles in 1966. This was two years after
we'd got out of college, where we'd first met, student friends and musician
buddies. I was standing near a microphone when I heard Sterl call gently but
firmly, "Don't move." I turned my head just in time to see smoke, one of my
guitar strings vaporized by the ungrounded microphone it had just touched. I
would have been ashes.
"I arrived at his house by train from the city with
depressing thoughts in my head and not one decent suggestion. I was struck by
how big he was. Perhaps that was accentuated by the extreme gauntness of his
once-muscular physique. He was balk with nothing but skin over bone. But his
eyes. His eyes were as alert and clear as any eyes I've seen in this world. Not
once did he complain. We spoke of music and old band mates. We talked baseball.
We never spoke of what was going on."
Reed goes on to note that Maureen
Tucker, former Velvets' drummer was also there visiting Morrison that day. "He
was strong despite the illness," writes Reed, "but then he'd always been the
strongest one. When he had played his passionate solos, I had always seen him
as a mythic Irish hero, flames shooting from his nostrils."
sitting near Morrison's bed, holding his hand. "And in the extraordinary
moments when men transcend their bodies and words are spoken at their own
peril, in these moments that move beyond speed and picture, in these moments
that only an artist can capture, I saw my friend Sterling: Sterl, the great
guitar-playing, tug-boat-captaining, Ph.D.-ing professor, raconteur supreme,
argumentative, funny, brilliant; Sterl as the architect of this monumental
effort, possessor of astonishing bravery and dignity. The warrior heart of the