Lou Reed died on Sunday at age 71 at his home on New York's Long Island. Liver disease was the listed cause of death. There are lots of great obituaries and remembrances of Reed, whose songwriting and singing with the Velvet Underground spawned a long, influential solo career that often focused on the darker, grittier side of humanity.
But Joshua Holland, a digital producer at Bill Moyers's website, is probably right:
That certainly doesn't mean you should avoid the obits of Reed. But here is a bare-bones, wildly incomplete retrospective of Reed's music, the legacy he probably wanted to leave the world:
"Caroline Says II"
From Berlin (1973)
"She's not afraid to die"
From The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
One of the enduring classics from the debut of Reed's early band. An ambitious, ambivalent song about the addictive opiate.
From the Velvet Underground's Loaded (1970)
One of the VU's bigger hits, and Reed's. "Oh, all the poets they studied rules of verse. And those ladies, they rolled their eyes."
"Take a Walk on the Wild Side"
From Transformer (1972)
Probably Reed's best-known song, about transvestites and prostitution and the city he loved. Transformer, Reed's sophomore solo album, was produced by David Bowie.
From Transformer (1972)
The B-side to "Walk on the Wild Side," "Perfect Day" gained new fame on the soundtrack of the 1996 movie Trainspotting.
From Street Hassle (1978)
This song comes in three acts — "Waltzing Mathilda," "Street Hassle," and "Slip Away" — and includes spoken-word musings from Bruce Springsteen... and some pretty NSFW lyrics.
Single, for Pickwick Records (1964)
Reed was an in-house songwriter for Pickwick when he penned and recorded this absurdist take on dance-craze songs, with an ad hoc group called the Primitives, with future Velvet Underground partner John Cale.
From New York (1989)
"Since it would be too hard to be comprehensive and to try to do justice to the man's entire career, I've decided to limit myself to just one song," says Kathleen Geier at Washington Monthly. "Halloween Parade” is "not Lou's best song, but it's a perfectly good one, from one of his better solo albums."
I've chosen it, because Halloween is coming up this week, and because this song — which concerns the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, and was written during the plague years of the AIDS crisis — is about loss, grief, and death. I would say R.I.P. Lou Reed, but he would probably say that was a load of crap. And you know what? He'd be right. [Washington Monthly]