I found out Lou Reed had died between football games, house cleaning, and pumpkin decorating. During a quick Twitter break, I noticed a press release saying that he had passed away. I am sad for reasons that I do not completely understand. I have never been a big Lou Reed fan and can only name maybe a handful of songs off the top of my head. One being “Sweet Jane” and another being “Heroin,” which is really The Velvet Underground as was explained to me.
“Heather, Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground are two different things,” Trey, not so patiently, tried to tell me.
“Yes, but Lou is part of The Velvet Underground.”
“Yes, but they are different. It is like saying “Crazy Train” is a Sabbath song. It is an Ozzy song. The two things are very different.”
I enjoy Neil Diamond, Everclear, Johnny Cash, and Kanye West equally. There are bands that I had never really enjoyed that I became a fan of through listening with Trey, and I have high hopes that one day I will get Elvis Costello. I have no musical identity and I am married to a man who prides himself on his. This has led to the occasional argument and the occasional musical discovery. When we drive anywhere and have the radio on he says, “What is this? I have never heard this in my life.” This leads me to say, “Of course not, it was released after 1994.” He doesn’t find that joke at all funny.
In the 90s I was a fan of The Doors. It would be safe to thank Oliver Stone for this particular stage of my musical heritage. I fancied myself a poet at the time and Jim Morrison had fancied himself the same thing. I was 16 and full of hormones. Morrison was charismatic and had very tight pants and beautiful hair; he had also been dead for 20 years. It was love. I bought all the albums (on tape of course) and listened to them on the boom box that was seat belted into my yellow Cavalier. With the window down and my left foot propped up on the dashboard, I would drive to work feeling alive. After work I would change into one of my many Jim Morrison tees, shirts that were purchased in a hole in the wall shop next to a bowling alley. I bought poetry books by Jim Morrison and made a necklace of red and white beads to match one I had seen him photographed in. In the absence of my own identity, I decided to wear Jim Morrison’s instead. At some point I moved on from The Doors, but I never again felt so connected to a group and their music.
Maybe that is why I am sad for Lou, his family, and his fans. They lost something that connected them. Some spark that made them feel a certain way at a certain moment. Maybe they remember the freedom of driving with their feet propped up, warm sun on their arms as they hummed away to “Sweet Jane.” For me Lou Reed (and The Velvet Underground) will remind me of my parents and our Florida vacation when I made them play my The Doors soundtrack, and track number 9 was “Heroin.”
“Cause when the smack begins to flow
Then I really don’t care anymore
Ah, when the heroin is in my blood
And that blood is in my head
Then thank God that I’m as good as dead
Then thank your God that I’m not aware
And thank God that I just don’t care
And I guess I just don’t know
And I guess I just don’t know”
Today I thank Oliver Stone for leading me to The Doors and I thank The Doors for leading me to The Velvet Underground and I thank The Velvet Underground for reminding me of a long car trip with my family. I may not have much of a musical identity, but I feel for those who have lost a part of theirs.