Originally Written October 28, 2013. Lou Reed is to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday April 18. His sponsor is Patti Smith and his music will be performed by Beck.
Lou Reed died yesterday and I cried today. I was thinking of something I wrote for a poetry slam after Bradley Nowell died, “When an artist dies, Satan smiles.” Upon reflection that seems suspiciously close to “I saw Satan laughing with delight / The day the music died.” It’s not that Lou Reed died. I hope he had a good passing. But he was an artist once. He brought something new into the world. In Ursula Le Guin’s book The Word for World is Forest, those who are bringing something new into the world are called gods—while they are bringing something new into the world–so someone might say, “I was a god then.” I have observed over the years that if an artist sees that something is worth doing, and that he can do it, he will do it, regardless of consequences. I think that is the difference between artists and entertainers; an entertainer worries about coming back tomorrow night. Maybe I cried for the price that artists pay. But, no, Vincent van Gogh has already reassured me about that. In his last letter to his brother Theo, Vincent said, “My own work, I am risking my life for it, and my reason has half-foundered because of it….that’s all right.” Maybe I cried for the wonder of a world “that hath such people in it,” or is it that it hath so few such people in it.