When Lou Reed died, there was some great news coverage, such as the NY Times obituary, and much absurdity – which I guess could be predicted. My local news stations struggled to explain him to those who’d never heard of him. Here and there a reporter would add personal viewpoint (“He singlehandedly invented alt rock!”) to the obit pablum. Pablum. Does anyone still know what pablum is?
Not for the first time, I was grateful and impressed with how social media responded. Facebook, for example, didn’t just spread the news of his death, but also filled with tributes from people to whom Reed had mattered. Many simply quoted song lyrics that were important to them, which started conversational riffs that were moving and healing. I wish social media had been available when we lost Lennon! Or Strummer!
All of which got me thinking about what song lyric I would quote if another of my musicians dies before I do. There are certain songwriters who have been so important at some point in my life – so transformative – that their deaths would leave permanent holes. Even if I haven’t listened to (or thought about) some of them for decades, I need them to be in the world.
Below are the lyrics I might post. Although who knows what might instead occur at the time. When Alex Chilton died it wasn’t Chilton’s words or Big Star’s lyrics that surfaced, but Westerberg’s tribute song, Alex Chilton.
I’m in love, what was that song?
Here is one of my lists. What would yours be?
I have tried in my way to be free.
(note: the link has lyrics altered for TV!)
And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
trying to anesthetize the way that you feel.
You are the lump in my throat
I am the aching in your heart.
I can’t help it if I’m lucky.
Okay here is where I acknowledge what a silly exercise this is.
The proper Dylan lyric changes hourly.
She had to get out. Get out. Get out. Get out.
Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.
The dogs on Main Street howl because they understand
If I could take one moment into my hand
Life isn’t good enough. Music makes it good enough.
(Actually that quintessential Parker line
comes from an interview not a lyric.)
like a shine-eyed Mr. Zen
actually I’d probably use the lyrics that Corinne West
surely wrote for him in “Whiskey Poet“,
You took some chances
now the silence is your friend
As will I be in the end
I’d probably quote his stage observation
that he lives vicariously through his own songs.
(Live video without image.
Song that truncates unexpectedly.
Yup. Those were our ‘Mats.)
Look me in the eye and tell me I’m satisfied.
I am just a dreamer but you are just a dream.
This post responds to a recent WordPress weekly writing challenge about music that matters.)
Great riff on lyrics, death, and memory. Like that Cohen made the list. Thanks, Renee
Thanks, Renee. Love your blog, btw!