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The pain behind Lou Reed’s imperfect lyrics

March 25, 2017

What’s your favourite Lou Reed lyric? I reckon we can all learn from the harsh honesty of his lyrics – especially about imperfection and the ups and downs and upside-downs of life – sometimes feeling happy – sometimes feeling sad.

In music in general and in Lou’s songbook, there are so many sad songs  – and happy ones – but in my opinion. Lou was the master of that happy-sad combination.

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To me, Reed could come across as a prickly, grumpy character – but I loved the vulnerability in his lyrics – the way he seemed well aware of his faults. His imperfections! I think his honesty helps people connect with his lyrics.

My all-time favourite lyrics is from Perfect Day:

“Just a perfect day. You made me forget myself
I thought I was
Someone else…someone good”.

(it’s the…’someone good’ part that gets me). It’s happy – a perfect day…thinking he is someone else…until he adds the sad  ‘someone good’ part.

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As you may be aware, Lou’s life was full of broken friendships – his famous feuds  with bandmate John Cale with ‘Transformer’ producer David Bowie, his fallout with and sacking of former mentor Andy Warhol, and of course his bitter split from former writing mentor, Delmore Schwartz, captured in his song “European Son”.

Reed seemed to have so much in terms of friendships with talented friends, collaborators and mentors…but could not keep these friendships – although he did reconcile with Bowie and did perform again with Cale.

I love his lyrics from Pale Blue Eyes

“Thought of you as my mountain top…Thought of you as my peak
A thought of you as everything
I’ve had, but couldn’t keep
I’ve had, but couldn’t keep.”

As I read it, it seems Lou brilliantly articulated his personal pain – well aware of his personal failings and imperfections…yet he turned his angst into art.

If you know differently or read his lyrics differently to my interpretation, please feel free to add to the comments below. Also, please feel free to add your favourite Lou lyric.


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