Monday, December 29, 2008

Lou Reed

"And I thought you were a Christian . . . ! Shouldn't you be listening to Michael W. Smith or [insert your own favorite Christian music]?" WHAT WOULD JESUS LISTEN TO? How could we know? I have a hunch he would be listening to Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, and Tom Petty (insert your favorite singer-songwrtiters here). After all, the gentry (i.e., the Pharisees, etc.) excoriated Josh for hanging out in the wineshops with tax collectors, whores, thieves, and other riffraff. These were the people who were telling him what was really going on. I'll bet if there were poets and singers to be heard, he listened to the ones describing the underside of life. Of course, he was on a mission from his Father, so he was trying to keep them from going down in flames--showing them the Kingdom of God.

I'm not saying Lou Reed has been preaching the Kingdom of God . . . far from it, sometimes. What he's been doing for the last forty or so years has been picking up the rocks under our feet, turning them over, and showing us the things we've hidden, kicked under there. Then he's been searing them across our hearts with words like hot branding irons in songs such as "Sweet Jane", "Heroin", and "Waitin' for the Man", anthems to the underside of life, messages from the black holes beneath our society. Like Dylan, Lou has never sought lasting popularity. He has constantly changed and experimented with his music. I don't like all of it; I think Lou would be surprised if anyone did. My favorite is Rock 'n' Roll Animal and Lou Reed Live! recorded at a concert at the end of 1973 in New York. Of all rock concerts, this is the one I wish I had been at. Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner fronted a five-piece band, playing magnificent, symphonic, dual-lead guitars. Hunter's "Intro" to "Sweet Jane" is "arrogantly long", as one critic said, and brilliant--worth the price of admission itself. After all these years, it still sends shivers through me. The rest of Lou's noble and comic characters show us everyday life, as she is lived at the street level. Thank God for Bach--and thank God for Lou Reed. Rock on, baby, rock on!

1 comment:

Jon said...

All of that plus: His songs translate well to the ukulele