October 27, 2013 - 9:16pm
BY HANNAH WEINER
As a seventh grader, I scavenged through my dad’s album collection and pulled out The Best of The Velvet Underground. While it surely terrified my parents that I listened to the songs “I’m Waiting for the Man” and “Heroin” on repeat, thus began my relationship with Lou Reed.
Obsessions with certain musicians come and go, but Lou Reed has always remained a constant friend to my music collection. In high school, he sang me through moments of angst and frustration; my soundtrack to and from school usually involved a song from White Light/White Heat or Loaded. I felt I was Ginger Brown, Polly May, and Joana Love, who “ain’t got nothing at all” in “Oh! Sweet Nothing.”
The truth is: I had a lot more than nothing, but I wanted Lou Reed to show me what it meant to feel like I had nothing at all.
Lou Reed was my gateway drug into loving music. He never pretended to sing, nor did he pretend to ignore the hardships involved in being alive. He wrote poetry — profoundly simple lyrics that help me pinpoint exact moments in my life based on which song by Lou Reed played as the soundtrack.
I fell in love with Lou Reed listening to “Walk on the Wild Side.” He explained to me, very simply, that there’s so much in the world that I hadn’t yet experienced. It didn’t make sense to me when my parents and teachers tried teaching me that lesson, yet when Reed sang about the “wild side,” I felt one step closer to discovering what I was looking for.
When I broke up with my high school boyfriend, “There She Goes Again” and “Rock and Roll” played (loudly) in the car on the ride home. Because, after a dramatic teenage break-up, it felt like my life was not only being saved by rock and roll—more specifically, my life was being saved by The Velvet Underground.
When I left for college, “Sweet Jane” played in my mind while I pulled up to my dorm for the first time. Reed sang me advice my parents weren’t going to tell me: “Everyone who ever had a heart / They wouldn’t turn around and break it.” He told me it was going to be okay just by singing “La la la” over and over again. And he was right: college turned out to be great.
When I fell in love (for real, this time), “Pale Blue Eyes” rang in my ears for days. My boyfriend didn’t “make me mad,” but I wanted him to “linger on” with his “pale blue eyes.” Now, listening to that song reminds me of that feeling of falling in love once more. And I find myself listening to “I’ll Be Your Mirror” more and more immediately after hearing about pale blue eyes.
Lou promised me all the things that came true. His voice has undeniably soundtracked my life, for the better. In my teenage wisdom, it felt profound to claim that Lou Reed saved my life. He didn’t — not even close. Lou did, however, start a musical obsession with fitting songs to speak truths about my life.
I, and the rest of the world, will deeply miss Lou Reed’s honesty, but he will never stop singing realities about life that take years to finally figure out.