Why Lou Reed Matters: “…every bit Bob’s equal”

Photo via the Village Voice.

This past week the Village Voice published a wonderful essay on Lou Reed. Peter Gerstenzang zeroed in on the import of Lou Reed’s songwriting, calling him “Bob’s equal,” the Bob being, of course, Mr. Dylan.

Gerstenzang wrote:

Even knowing there was a cat around named Bob Dylan, who often gets the credit for marrying poetry and mature ideas to Rock and Roll, Lou Reed, who died from the results of liver disease, is, I believe, every bit Bob’s equal. Unquestionably as important, possibly more influential. Although there’s some similarity in their backgrounds (they’re both real rockers who listened to Little Richard before they ever read Rimbaud), Lou did things differently than Dylan. Where Bob introduced surrealism and symbolism into our music, Lou Reed did the same for realism. Perhaps, more accurately, photorealism.

Sure, Dylan told us about the mystery tramp, Queen Jane, that ghostly Johanna, people who lived in our dreams. Reed, no matter where he grew up or who he studied with, told us about people who lived in New Yawk. In 1964 or so, with Dylan delighting in “majestic bells of bolts” and tambourine men, Lou was writing, in complex, but no uncertain terms, about the kind of people who couldn’t resist the siren’s song, the supremely majestic feeling of shooting smack. Or speed. No code words, no metaphors, no clever substitutions. And, without any obvious moralizing, how when these drugs turned on you, you just wished you were dead.

For the rest of this insightful essay, head over to the Village Voice.

About Michael Goldberg

Michael Goldberg is a distinguished pioneer in the online music space; Newsweek magazine called him an ‘Internet visionary.’ In 1994 he founded Addicted To Noise (ATN), the highly influential music web site. He was a senior vice-president and editor in chief at SonicNet from March 1997 through May 2000. In 1997, Addicted To Noise won Webby awards for best music site in 1998 and 1999, and also won Yahoo Internet Life! awards for three years running as best music site in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Prior to starting Addicted To Noise, Goldberg was an editor and senior writer at Rolling Stone magazine for 10 years. His writing has also appeared in Wired, Esquire, Vibe, Details, Downbeat, NME and numerous other publications. Michael recently completed his first novel, Days of the Crazy-Wild, and is currently writing a second novel.

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