And so, last Sunday, another music legend passed away, the incomparable Mr. Lou Reed.  And despite the fact that I’d never met the man or even seen him perform live, his death shook me to my core.  I’d been quite a fan of Mr. Reed and had spent many moments of my life with his music playing in the background.

I started listening to Lou when I was at uni and one of my best friends from the time made me a tape mix of his solo work, as well as some stuff by The Velvet Underground.  Need I say it was love at first sound.  I didn’t know quite why at the time but when I think about it now, it was just like my fascination with The Jam, The Smiths and The Doors at the time – these were artists who tugged at the hearts of misfits, misunderstood teenagers, Bohemians, people from the fringes of society, kids who didn’t fit in with the usual popular clans, lyrics and music that appeal to every teeange angst-ridden heart whilst pogo dancing at the club.

Later when I started making heads in the corporate world, Lou was my background music while travelling to work on my bike.  I was then angst-ridden in a different way than my teenage years.  Then Lou appealed to my “wild side” which despite my years could not be bridled in.  Cycling to that job was the last (corporate) job I ever cycled to.  I’m sure Lou had more to do with that than I’d like to admit…I mean, how can you listen to “Take a walk on the wild side” while cycling to a job that you, in your heart of hearts, hated and not say, God damn, why not?

When I did take the plunge and took a walk on the wild side, Lou helped me to launch my busking career.  I only knew a handful of songs at the time, one of which was “Perfect Day”.  I don’t busk with it anymore, preferring to keep it to the privacy of my own home and thoughts.  But I do do it with my singing groups and some pupils.  It’s such a universal song that you can interpret it in any way you like, hopefully with as much crescendo and gusto at the end of the chorus (“you just keep me hanging on”) as you can muster.

“It’s strange how you can be devastated by the death of someone you never met. But, this music got me through so much.”

When he died on  Sunday, I re-listened to a lot of Lou’s songs on YouTube, songs that took me back to uni, my corporate job, my early busking days, to many many wonderful times and places.  And while listening to “Sunday Morning” I noticed the top comment which went like this: “It’s strange how you can be devastated by the death of someone you never met. But, this music got me through so much.”  And that’s what the great musicians at a particular point in our lives do – they help us get through things.   When I feel like the universe makes no sense I put Beethoven’s 9th or Dead Can Dance on my ears and realise how wonderfully perfect sense everything makes.  When I feel like I can’t take it anymore and need some release I put “L.A. Woman” or “T.N.T.” on full blast and jump up and down as if I were having an epileptic attack.  When I feel like I can’t take the pain anymore I put on almost anything by Leonard Cohen or Don McLean and somehow feel at peace…

Yes, that is the power of music.  And even though we don’t know most of the artists we listen to, we think of them as old friends.  They’ve seen our tears, our broken hearts, our infatuations, our grief, our craziness, our ecstasy, our highs and our lows.  They know us through and through.   And they get us through, they keep us hanging on…

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