Farewell to Lou Reed

Lou Reed, the legendary guitarist and vocalist of the Velvet Underground died Oct. 26 at the age of 71.

Less of a rock star than a luminary of the rock ‘n’ roll world, Reed refined an incredible variety of sounds in his lifetime. His works range from the confessional ballad-like “Perfect Day” to the slow grunge of “Venus and Furs” and the rapid rhythm and blues of “I’m Waiting for the Man.” Any of his songs could serve as a “how-to” tutorial for a musician wanting to construct a good rock song.

In his love song “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” Reed preserves the electric guitar and the percussion, but he does so without losing the song’s soft and delicate tonality. Reed himself does not sing, but instead carefully alternates between melodic and rhythmic guitar to compliment the track’s vocals. The song speeds up and slows down, growing louder and then softer, all creating a distinct vocal contour that highlights Reed’s genius.

Reed was truly an inspiration for late 20th-century rock, inspiring such stars as David Bowie, U2, R.E.M., Nirvana and a myriad of other well-known artists. Elvis might have been the the father of rock ‘n’ roll and Bob Dylan might be the icon of folk, but Reed is the pioneer of every other kind of modern rock ‘n’ roll. Anyone who’s enjoyed a quality rock song in the past several decades should mourn Reed’s passing — preferably by sitting back and listening to one of his many great chef d’oeuvres.

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