Lou Reed was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame last night (April 18), with a range of tributes being paid to the late Velvet Underground frontman.
Punk poet and Reed’s friend Patti Smith, who inducted The Velvet Underground into the Hall Of Fame in 1996, gave a speech inducting Reed. In it, she recalled first making eye contact with the musician and conversations with him later in their friendship.
“I made my first eye contact with Lou, dancing to the Velvet Underground when they were playing upstairs at Max’s Kansas City in the summer of 1970,” she told the crowd, as Rolling Stone reports. “And then somewhere along the line, Lou and I became friends. It was a complex friendship, sometimes antagonistic and sometimes sweet. Lou was sometimes emerge from the shadows at CBGBs. If I did something good, he would praise me. If I made a false move, he would break it down.”
She continued: “One night, when we were touring, separately, we wound up in the same hotel, and I got a call from him, and he asked me to come to his room. He sounded a little dark, so I was a little nervous. But I went up, and the door was open, and I found him in the bathtub dressed in black. So I sat on the toilet and listened to him talk. It seemed like he talked for hours, and he talked about, well, all kinds of things.”
“He spoke compassionately about the struggles of those who fall between genders. He spoke of pre-CBS fender amplifiers and political corruption. But most of all, he talked about poetry. He recited the great poets — Rupert Brooke, Hart Crane, Frank O’Hara. He spoke of the poets’ loneliness and of the poets’ dedication to the highest muses. When he fell into silence, I said, “Please, take care of yourself, so the world can have you as long as it can.” And Lou actually smiled.”
Reed’s widow Laurie Anderson also spoke of the late musician, echoing his sister’s earlier sentiments that Reed’s induction would have meant a lot to him. “It’s wonderful to be here in Cleveland, and Lou would’ve loved this,” said Anderson. “Lou’s genuinely proud of what he’d done and could really appreciate his own work. And, tonight, he would have been so immensely proud to be a part of this.”
She went on to discuss how David Bowie had urged her to give Reed’s last album, the collaboration with Metallic titled ‘Lulu’, more time. “This was really challenging, and I have a hard time with it. There are many struggles and so much radiance,” she said of the album. “And after Lou’s death, David Bowie made a big point of saying to me, “Listen, this is Lou’s greatest work; this is his masterpiece. Just wait, it will be like Berlin. It will take everyone a while to catch up,” I’ve been reading the lyrics and it is so fierce. It’s written by a man who understood fear and rage and venom and terror and revenge and love. And it is raging.”
Later, a host of musicians influenced by Reed performed some of his songs for the audience. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O and Nick Zinner played ‘Vicious’ from the album ‘Transformer’, while Beck was joined by fun.’s Nate Ruess and Paul Shaffer’s backing band to cover ‘Satellite Of Love’.
Lou Reed passed away on October 27 2013 from liver disease. He was 71.