The New Yorker: Lou Reed

By Marianne Hagan

image Reed, The Highline, New York City, above.

This photograph of Lou Reed standing against the New York City skyline’atop the abandoned, elevated railroad in the West Village known as The Highline’was taken on September 11th of this year. It marked the sixth anniversary of “that day.” Like so many other disembodied souls facing the unthinkable as it played out in nightmarish slow motion, Reed couldn’t reach his longtime love, Laurie Anderson, by phone. So he did the only thing he knew to do: howl from his rooftop, and write her a poem, “Laurie Sadly Listening.”

“Laurie if you’re sadly listening/ The birds are on fire/ The sky glistening/ While I atop my roof stand watching.”

And watch he continues to do-from the trenches and the towers, as an artist and a citizen. Reed, the co-founder of The Velvet Underground and solo artist in every way, exists with an exclamation point, in stark contrast to other erstwhile rebels of his generation. (Former counterculture mascot, Dennis Hopper, comes to mind-shilling Ameriprise retirement funds, standing anachronistically on a pristine Caribbean beach.) Reed remains upright in his artistic endeavors. September 11th drew a straight line down the middle of a splatter painting, marking in stark relief the two sides: those who would flee their maimed city and those who would stay. He stayed with a vengeance. And today, no other figure, rock-n-roll or otherwise, so urgently, so iconically shouts “New York City.”

BLACKBOOK: The railroad tracks are hallowed ground for you. Why?

LOU REED: Because it’s so much a part of old New York. It’s very beautiful. It’s amazing to be up there walking on those old tracks.

BB: The bottomless well of New York City seems to be a constant source to which you return. What about it continues to inspire you?

LR: The city keeps changing constantly. It’s like an animal that keeps growing, shifting.

BB: Are there any musicians working today who influence you?

LR: Way too many to name…

BB: You don’t seem like someone who will “go gently into that good night.” What keeps you going while many of your contemporaries have traded in their guitars for golf clubs?

LR: I like making things.

BB: If there is such a thing as a perfect day.

LR: Good music, good friends, a nice day in the city, a good movie, a nice gallery, perhaps a play, all the things that make New York.

Photography by Jeff Reidel.

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