grasped you at a young age
and carried you on towards
becoming the person
you are now?
One of the benefits of growing up in Canada in the 80s/90s was that we had a music video channel that–for the brief window when it was relevant to me–went out of its way to expose its audience to something beyond the regular top 40. This was how I heard Lou Reed for the first time in a non-animated context. It was 1989, I was 13 and the video they played was the first single from “New York”–which was considered something of an artistic comeback for him at the time. Here’s a live version of that song from that same year:
That next day I bicycled over to the nearest public library and found the album in their new release bin. I took it home and listened to it non-stop. I could tell that I was listening to something that was very adult and serious, but also funny in ways I didn’t entirely understand. Bullied and alienated from the rest of my peers, I was very angry and it was this righteous indignation that I latched onto–especially in “Dirty Blvd” which to me was about how unfair life was and how most of the people fighting for something better probably woudn’t find it.
After that I took out every album of his the library had. My uncle bought me the “Between Thought & Expression” CD boxed set for Christmas a few years later and I listened to it non-stop. I hadn’t yet moved on to his earlier work with the Velvet Underground so for the first few times I listened to that set’s 12:20 version of “Heroin” I was convinced it was about a terrible woman named Rowanne–“Heeeeeeeey, Rowanne–be the death of me, it’s my wife and it’s my life.”
Looking back, he clearly belongs on the list of creative people whose works caught my attention at a young age and helped to form the building blocks of who I became. Also on that list I would add George Carlin, Woody Allen, Tori Amos, Johnette Napolitano, Kurt Vonnegut, Gordon Korman, Stephen King, David Cronenberg, Bob Fosse, Roger Cormen, Danny Peary and many more.
Who are the people on your list? The ones who helped shaped you and whose presence you will dearly miss once they are gone?