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Patti Smith Honors Lou Reed: ‘Our Generation’s New York Poet’

Patti Smith, Lou Reed, tribute, New Yorker

More than a week after Lou Reed’s death, a tribute has arrived that’s too poetic and touching to be overlooked. Patti Smith has been vocal about honoring her fellow New York rock trailblazer, telling Rolling Stone the former Velvet Underground frontman was “a very special poet” and highlighting “Pale Blue Eyes” as a personal favorite Reed song in a chat with The Hollywood Reporter. Just days after Reed’s widow, the great Laurie Anderson, published a heartbreaking obituary for her late husband, the New Yorker has posted a memorial piece by Smith that should move fans all over again.

Smith relates that she was sitting at New York’s Rockaway Beach when she heard the news of Reed’s passing. She recalls meeting Reed at Max’s Kansas City in 1970 and how you could dance for hours to Velvet Underground classics like “Sister Ray.” And she eloquently hones her previous praise for the man: “He was our generation’s New York poet, championing its misfits as Whitman had championed its workingman and Lorca its persecuted,” she writes. She also reflects vividly on her encounters with Reed, over the years and just recently before his death (“his dark eyes seemed to contain an infinite and benevolent sadness”). And she describes the responses she got from friends around the world when they learned Reed was gone.

Again, you should go read the whole thing over at New Yorker, so consider this a spoiler alert, but if you read only one Patti Smith paragraph about Lou Reed, let it be her dazzling conclusion:

As I mourned by the sea, two images came to mind, watermarking the paper-colored sky. The first was the face of his wife, Laurie. She was his mirror; in her eyes you can see his kindness, sincerity, and empathy. The second was the “great big clipper ship” that he longed to board, from the lyrics of his masterpiece, “Heroin.” I envisioned it waiting for him beneath the constellation formed by the souls of the poets he so wished to join. Before I slept, I searched for the significance of the date — October 27 — and found it to be the birthday of both Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath. Lou had chosen the perfect day to set sail — the day of poets, on Sunday morning, the world behind him.

More Lou Reed coverage on SPIN:

Lou Reed, R.I.P.: Hear His Legacy in 15 Tracks
Lou Reed: A Critical Discography
The SPIN Interview: Lou Reed
Lou Reed’s New York City: The Velvets’ Stomping Grounds, Today
Five Great Rap Songs That Sample Lou Reed or the Velvet Underground
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
The Top 100 Alternative Albums of the 1960s