Lou Reed Curates an Eclectic Playlist of His Favorite Songs During His Final Days: Stream 27 Tracks Lou Was Listening To

Lou Reed was a vora­cious lis­ten­er. Rather than con­sume music, he imbibed it, drank it down in draughts, then sweat­ed it out through his pores. His inex­haustible thirst for songs result­ed in a body of work that has always sound­ed inti­mate­ly famil­iar, even when it takes us to places no song­writ­ers had before: the bit­ter, ten­der, vio­lent under­side of glam­our, art, and romance.

But where, exact­ly, did Reed’s wry, bleak, yet ten­der sen­si­bil­i­ty come from? How did he man­age so much com­plex emo­tion­al res­o­nance in such seem­ing­ly sim­ple songs as “Sun­day Morn­ing” and “Per­fect Day”? Part of the answer comes from his ven­er­a­tion of Beat poets and writ­ers like Allen Gins­berg and William Bur­roughs, as well as his one-time men­tor Del­more Schwartz. “I thought if you could do what those writ­ers did,” he said, “and put it to drums and gui­tar, you’d have the great­est thing on earth.”

This was no easy accom­plish­ment. It took some­one like Reed, steeped in pop, folk, rock, and jazz songcraft, to pull it off in such a way that Rolling Stone could call the Vel­vet Under­ground “the most influ­en­tial Amer­i­can rock band of all time”—largely, writes the Dai­ly Dot, “because of Reed’s son­ic and lyri­cal con­tri­bu­tions.” For most of Reed’s career, how­ev­er, dis­cov­er­ing the sources of his mag­ic could be dif­fi­cult.

Reed’s inter­view moods ranged from iras­ci­bly con­fronta­tion­al to dis­dain­ful­ly tac­i­turn to face­tious­ly gar­ru­lous. “Every­thing is jokes to this bibu­lous bozo,” remarked Lester Bangs in a 1973 inter­view. “He real­ly makes a point of havin’ some fun!” But age, it seems, and the inter­net, mel­lowed him out and made him more like­ly to share. He opened up about his love for Kanye West’s Yeezus and oth­er things. He appeared on Sat­ur­day Night Live to dis­pute inter­net rumors that he had died in 2001.

And when he did die, in 2013, he left behind the Spo­ti­fy account “he was curat­ing… him­self,” keep­ing “playlists of songs he liked from the radio,” and show­ing both seri­ous and casu­al stu­dents of Lou Reed that “the best online source on Lou Reed is… Lou Reed.” In the two vol­ume playlist above called “What I’m Lis­ten­ing To,” Reed shows us just how seri­ous he was about soak­ing up all of the sounds around him.

Nic­ki Minaj, Prince, Way­lon Jen­nings, indie funk/soul Cana­di­ans King Khan & BBQ, psy­che­del­ic indie cham­ber pop band Of Mon­tre­al, Tom Waits, Miles Davis, Deer­hoof, post-hard­core band Fucked Up, bril­liant neo-soul singer/rapper/songwriter Geor­gia Anne Muldrow, Cap­tain Beef­heart… and that’s just vol­ume one. Name a genre—Reed has found what he clear­ly con­sid­ers its per­fect exem­plar. You can almost see him tak­ing notes, scowl­ing with envy, smirk­ing with appre­ci­a­tion for how his own influ­ence has per­me­at­ed the past few the decades.

Famous musi­cians aren’t always the most inter­est­ing peo­ple, though Reed’s pri­vate life was sen­sa­tion­al enough to war­rant retelling. But many fans will find it much more inter­est­ing to get into the mind of Reed the artist. And for that, you’ll need to try and hear what he heard. Or, at least, lis­ten to what he lis­tened to.

If you need Spo­ti­fy’s free soft­ware, down­load it here. Here are the direct links to the two Spo­ti­fy playlists: Playlist 1Playlist 2.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lou Reed Cre­ates a List of the 10 Best Records of All Time

Teenage Lou Reed Sings Doo-Wop Music (1958–1962)

An Ani­ma­tion of The Vel­vet Underground’s “Sun­day Morn­ing” … for Your Sun­day Morn­ing

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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