Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lou Reed, "Coney Island Baby" (1976)

Lou Reed's death has caught me up a bit. It wasn't one anyone could say was a surprise, but I felt it as an unexpected loss and still do. More, I have been amazed by the outpouring I have seen, often exasperated by what people laud and ignore. But of course—it could not be any other way. Lou Reed contained peevishness too, a Walt Whitman of our times, contradicting himself, large, containing multitudes. I wanted to post "Baton Rouge" on Facebook as my own personal expression of grief, but played it safe with "Sweet Jane." More I was intrigued by what everybody else was throwing up—it was an amazing variety, from pre-Velvets to "Egg Cream" and beyond, which may have been the most remarkable testament of all. Applying the work ethic Andy Warhol so famously drummed into him, Lou Reed willed himself into becoming a creative giant, one of the most enduring, influential, and productive artists of his time, and someone who personally became important to me, for his storytelling and sharp eye and his stories of substance abuse, bad relationships and good, and for his commitment to physical and, yes, emotional health. I saw him in performance once in Minneapolis, in 1984, and again in Seattle in 1992, and he was a sensation both times. I've been listening to him for 40 years but am only now getting some sense of the giant figure he cut. As for "Coney Island Baby," it's Lou Reed the way I particularly like him, with his defenses down and his heart wide open, alert and paying attention and getting the details. I mean, "I wanted to play football for the coach"? How does he get away with that? Among other things, Lou Reed was a consummate showman and a dedicated student of the human heart. Sit for 6:47 and enjoy a little masterpiece, why don't you.


  1. Yep, I knew that! One of my favorites too, the whole album but especially the song.