David Byrne Offers Thoughts on Lou Reed
Plenty of artists have been paying tribute to the legendary Lou Reed, who passed away on Sunday. David Byrne is the latest musician to offer his thoughts on Reed. The former Talking Heads frontman published a letter in Rolling Stone, which reads:
I just got an email from a Chilean actress who wrote what it meant to be able to hear Lou’s work during the period of dictatorship there. A breath of life, she called it. That gives you some idea of how widespread and deep his influence was.
No surprise I was a big fan, and his music, with and without the Velvets, was a big influence on myself and Talking Heads. He came to see us at CBGB numerous times, and I remember three of us going to visit him at his Upper East Side apartment after one of our very early gigs there.
Lou was talking a mile a minute and going through tubs of Haagen-Dazs ice cream while he suggested some variations and adjustments we might make to some of our songs. He began to play our song “Tentative Decisions” (a very Lou song title, no?) but he played it way slower than we were doing it. He was showing us how the song might be as a ballad — which made it more melancholic and elegaic than our bouncy version.
It suddenly was of a piece with “Candy Says,” “Some Kind of Love” or “Pale Blue Eyes.” Of course we were in awe—here was one of our heroes playing one of our little songs. But by then it was the wee hours of the morning, dawn was coming, and we were all pretty spaced out—and we three probably had day jobs to get to at that point.
I kept in touch with Lou over the years. We’d run into one another at concerts or at various NY cultural events and benefits. I remember how brave (and artistically successful) I thought Magic and Loss was and how well his theatrical collaborations with Robert Wilsons’ worked and I knew what a convoluted process that could be, having done it myself twice.
More recently I’d see Lou and Laurie socially—we’d join mutual friends for dinner sometimes – and at concerts. He and Laurie never stopped checking out emerging artists, bands and all sorts of performances.
That was, for me, inspirational as well. Lots of creative types retreat after they achieve a certain level of success or renown – Lou seemed to maintain his curiosity and willingness to take risks.
His work and that of the Velvets was a big reason I moved to NY and I don’t think I’m alone there. We wanted to be in a city that nurtured and fed that kind of talent.
David Byrne Oct 28 2013