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Remembering punk’s spiritual grandfather, Lou Reed / by Zach Staggers

Lou Reed is a New York original. Born to a Jewish family in Brooklyn in 1942, he was shipped out to the suburbs of Long Island only to fight his way back into the city as soon as he could. It's funny to think that he got his start at the Brill building in Manhattan -- a place where the pop hits of yesteryear were manufactured. But at the forefront of a changing of the guard in music and culture, Lou moved on from the Brill Building to break all the rules he learnt there. Well, maybe he didn't break all of the rules.

Throughout his life-spanning career, that pop sensibility always stayed at the forefront, while that dark, that desperate, that stormy and sometimes evil voice crept out from underneath his pop songs. You can hear New York in Lou Reed’s accent, of course, but NYC's spirit infiltrates more than just his vocals. Whether with the Velvets or on a solo record, in any given moment you can smell, taste and feel New York City. The shadows cast by tall buildings, the pavement in the summer, the ghosts of the nighttime, the too small apartment. It's all in there.

I'd like to think that if someone who never left their small island heard a record of Lou Reed's, they could at least get a feeling of what our big city can feel like. But, like everything nowadays, there is very little left of that original feeling. The new New York, with some of the highest rents in the world and the most expensive cigarettes, ain't the easiest place for a musician to live. Add to that the extreme pressure of commercialism and the congregation of media companies who try to define what is "cool," and it's a true struggle to make raw, real deal art.

Having lost Lou, it’s hard not to think we've finally put a bookend to an era of the city that defined it for the world. We will miss you Lou. Thank you for everything.

- Zach Staggers
Drummer, The So So Glos

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