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Laurie Anderson on Lou Reed: ‘I Am So Proud of the Way He Lived and Died’

lou reed, laurie anderson, death, velvet underground

Since Lou Reed’s passing on October 27, the late icon has been honored many times over by a slew of artists. Among those who paid tribute to the Velvet Underground co-founder: VU bandmate John Cale, Patti Smith, Arcade Fire, and David Bowie. One of the most heartfelt remembrances, though, came from Reed’s widow, Laurie Anderson, who wrote a touching obituary for a local Long Island newspaper. Now, Anderson has penned another farewell to her longtime partner, who succumbed to liver disease at the age of 71.

Anderson begins the piece by recalling the first time she and Lou Reed met, at a music festival organized by John Zorn in Munich in 1992. “John wanted us all to meet one another and play with one another, as opposed to the usual ‘move-’em-in-and-out’ festival mode,” she writes. “That was why Lou asked me to read something with his band. I did, and it was loud and intense and lots of fun… I liked him right away, but I was surprised he didn’t have an English accent. For some reason I thought the Velvet Underground were British, and I had only a vague idea what they did. (I know, I know.) I was from a different world.”

The two started dating a little while after that initial encounter. “From then on,” Anderson writes, referencing their first date, “We were never really apart.”

She continues: “Lou and I played music together, became best friends and then soul mates, traveled, listened to and criticized each other’s work, studied things together (butterfly hunting, meditation, kayaking). We made up ridiculous jokes; stopped smoking 20 times; fought; learned to hold our breath underwater; went to Africa; sang opera in elevators; made friends with unlikely people; followed each other on tour when we could; got a sweet piano-playing dog; shared a house that was separate from our own places; protected and loved each other. We were always seeing a lot of art and music and plays and shows, and I watched as he loved and appreciated other artists and musicians. He was always so generous. He knew how hard it was to do. We loved our life in the West Village and our friends; and in all, we did the best we could do… Sometimes we got really angry. But even when I was mad, I was never bored. We learned to forgive each other. And somehow, for 21 years, we tangled our minds and hearts together.”

Later in the piece, Anderson shares some insight on the couple’s decision to get married in 2008, and then details some of the health problems that plagued Reed in his final years.

“Lou was sick for the last couple of years,” she shares, “First from treatments of interferon, a vile but sometimes effective series of injections that treats hepatitis C and comes with lots of nasty side effects. Then he developed liver cancer, topped off with advancing diabetes. We got good at hospitals. He learned everything about the diseases, and treatments.”

Even after the liver transplant Reed underwent earlier this year started to fail him, the singer-songwriter held onto hope until the end, according to Anderson. “He didn’t give up until the last half-hour of his life, when he suddenly accepted it,” she explains, “All at once and completely. We were at home – I’d gotten him out of the hospital a few days before – and even though he was extremely weak, he insisted on going out into the bright morning light… I was holding in my arms the person I loved the most in the world, and talking to him as he died. His heart stopped. He wasn’t afraid. I had gotten to walk with him to the end of the world. Life – so beautiful, painful and dazzling – does not get better than that. And death? I believe that the purpose of death is the release of love. At the moment, I have only the greatest happiness and I am so proud of the way he lived and died, of his incredible power and grace.”

Read the entire piece at Rolling Stone, and don’t miss SPIN’s exclusive coverage of Lou Reed and his legacy:

Lou Reed, R.I.P.: Hear His Legacy in 15 Tracks
Lou Reed: A Critical Discography
The SPIN Interview: Lou Reed
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Toesucker Blues: Robert Christgau’s Farewell Salute to Lou Reed
Dave Hickey on Lou Reed: ‘We Have Lost the Master of the Mundane and the Malicious’
The Little Giant: John Cameron Mitchell Remembers His Neighbor, Lou Reed
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