The obituary. The brief summary of all that was good about the life of a being who has passed away, discussing the mark that they left on this earth. However, some deal with these better than others. The linked article: ‘Lou Reed enjoyed a VERY debauched walk on the wild side until excess caught up with him’ is the pinnacle of memorial stupidity.
On 27th October 2013, music pioneer Lou Reed died, aged 71. Since then, as Reed drinks Sangria in the great park in the sky, the music world has been very kind, and quite rightly so. Tributes have flooded in left, right and centre from musical elites, and even the Vatican had nice words.
Inevitably, somebody was going to feel the need to bring up the subject in just how self-destructive he became. Sadly, his (and collegues’) spectacular hard drug use, was integral to how the most influential years unfolded, not just as part of The Velvet Underground, but for many other music legends spawned during the 60s and into the 70s (you don’t have to look any further than The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and David Bowie for other definitive examples). Perhaps it really is a suitable subject to discuss. His reputation is hardly clean, and while his level of influence is huge, the peak of his chart career did not last for as long as other legends that the music of 1960s spawned.
However, some might argue that his influence was very poor and very dangerous. Somebody might want to in fact ignore his positive effects entirely, just to paint the subject as the ultimate scum. Perhaps to spread the word that we should be indifferent and shove Reed aside with a shrug and a ‘so what?’, or perhaps with a sigh of relief, a ‘thank God that’s over’ and a zestful garnish of ‘Ha! Serves you right!’.
Who might that be?
Surprise! Somebody had to do it, and beyond ‘whoz dis loo read guy lol wat’ tweets, it was hardly likely that it would be anybody else. I didn’t have to click on the link I was sent. Really I didn’t, and wish that I hadn’t. I should have known that I wouldn’t be jolly with what was on screen. The comment next to it on my Facebook feed (“This is why I hate Daily Mail…”) should have been a clue.
Before I carry on, I am well aware that Mail Online did upload a fair article reporting his death and his influences (written by the catchily named ‘DAILY MAIL REPORTER’), but their urge to write an article that consists solely of a list of wrongs. Perhaps it’s the writer of the pictured article, Tom Leonard, who should have remained anonymous.
So, is this a poorly written obituary, or a direct smear? Not once does Tom Leonard find a few lines to write about Reed’s contributions. This article is merely a list of everything that was flawed about this abomination of a man, with very little in the way of noting his pioneering works. When a calmer era is eventually mentioned (“Reed moved back in with his parents, worked as a typist and started writing poetry.”), it does not last (“It was only a passing phase”). When all the drug abuse is over, and the number of flaws is wearing thin, it later refers to his bad attitude.
However, what angered me more was not so much the repeated reminders that he was a very regular drug user, but digging up references to his sexual preferences. This is completely unnecessary.
“Reed, who battled with depression, also struggled with his sexuality.”
The subject of sex is even dealt with what I find to be the defining, and most disgusting couple of sentences:
“As a 17-year-old boy, his parents sent him to a psychiatric hospital for an eight week course of non-convulsive electroshock therapy. He claimed it was to ‘correct’ homosexual impulses, although a family friend said Reed’s parents just wanted to get the teenager to behave.”
This was mentioned in the better article, portraying him as a dark and tragic figure with a fluctuating upbringing. However, here it is a mash-up of slander. Mentioning his age and how his parents took desperate measures, portrays Reed as a naughty boy who never grew up, so bad that such radical treatment could not cure him. The fact that the reasoning behind the treatment is uncertain, it’s another excuse to dump another reference to sexuality, when that may not have been the reason. An obituary is the last place that anyone should find half-truths. Leonard continues to groan:
“His ambiguous sexual persona coupled with tales of wild sex only increased his legendary status in the music business.”
It makes me wonder whether the article is not just to disgrace Reed, but as a stab at current culture. The post seems to suggest not only has this monster finally kicked the bucket, but that his contribution was the spark that caused everything that is wrong in the music world today. He is the embodiment of everything that is wrong in entertainment, or at least what the Daily Mail feels that the world should be like.
Things get very interesting around the point where stories of attitude and temper emerge, because it is so hypocritical. Earlier, his classic ‘Perfect Day’ is probed for its references to heroin (which is still debated. Considering how The Velvet Underground have a song entitled ‘Heroin’, I’m unsure that he would have resorted to euphemisms) and the fact the song was used in a corporate film by the BBC, sung by a medley of musicians, and latter sold as a single, raising over £2 million for Children in Need, is sniffed at for being inappropriate. However, he is a horrid human being for preventing Susan Boyle from singing it on America’s Got Talent.
He took drugs (or was a ‘druggie’ as the article mentions TWICE), dabbled with homosexuality and was a rock musician. Oh, and he wasn’t British either (even this gets a stab as it mentions just how horrifying New York was). It is every one of the Daily Mail’s nightmares rolled up in one man… and we love him for that.
I couldn’t have put it better myself, Lou. RIP.