Lou Gave Me A Lot

"This Halloween is something to be sure, especially to be here without you"

It's four in the morning and I'm up with a jet lag, just back from Berlin. I was standing there a few days ago, by the remnants of the wall, when my phone started buzzing with texts about Lou Reed's passing. I'd actually been humming tunes from his album "Berlin" all over that town but when I got the news I took that coincidence in stride. Because there was no coincidence, I was always humming Lou's music, everywhere, all the time. We all were.

But over the past few days, my own deep sadness over his passing has surprised me. Like so many kids who rode out the divorce wave of the 70's, I adopted a lot of rock and roll fathers along the way. They're all getting old now, but Lou stands out above them for some key reasons.

Music in my opinion is not a choice, we didn't pick it out of the bin, it found us. I can remember lurching forward, shoving my head through the front seats of my parents VW wagon, trying to get closer to the car radio that was playing Bowie's "Suffragette City." I was too young to make any sort of decision, it was all about response. Soon thereafter, when I heard the Velvet's "Rock and Roll" I had exactly the same reaction. I wanted to crawl into that song. I was eleven or twelve and now I was into new wave or punk rock and it was not a rebellion or a way to shock my parents (who were pretty unshockable), it was merely that the music had, as people so often describe it, grabbed me and seized me and made me its own.

So Lou's music has been with me for the whole ride. Over the past three decades, I played it, lived in it, fell for it all. As a kid I listened to Transformer over and over until it did finally piss off my Dad (though he said he liked "Perfect Day"), I went through high school listening to the cello in Street Hassle and the meandering sing-song monologues on Coney Island Baby. While I was in college he dropped The Blue Mask and we were all amazed - for I had emerged from the loneliness of early adolescence to collect friends who all felt this same connection. We were chemically aligned - and then we jumped up and down with alcoholic joy when "VU" came out and we listened to "Metal Machine Music" till four in the morning, pacing around the tables, stone cold sober, until we actually heard the layers of guitar feedback saying things to us.

I was 21 when my girlfriend got pregnant. I freaked out. I drove around alone, too fast, in a tiny Chevy Sprint blasting out Lou Reed's latest, "New York", feeling trapped and confused and embracing all its dark poetic cynicism, lyrics like "I'll take Manhattan in a garbage bag with Latin on it that says "it's hard to give a shit these days." Yeah! Yes! Absolutely! I pounded the steering wheel with my fist.

But on that album there's another song, and here's where the difference in Lou stands out from all my other rock and roll fathers. It's a sweet rambly song called "Beginning of a Great Adventure" in which he speculates on what it would be like to be a dad. "A little me or he or she to fill up with my dreams/a way of saying life is not a loss." After my baby daughter was born I would rock her in my arms and sing her that song and when we were walking together in Berlin last weekend, I sang to her some more.