From Street Hassle to the Wild Side: Your Essential Lou Reed Playlist

One of rock’s most influential songwriters and guitarists, Lou Reed sadly passed away this weekend on Long Island. In memoriam, here are 10 essential Lou Reed tunes absolutely everyone needs to know.
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Lou Reed 2013

Lou Reed in July of 2013.

Sad news for the music world: Lou Reed passed away yesterday on Long Island, New York. The cause of death hasn’t yet been released; he did, however undergo a liver transplant in May, so it’s possible that complications arose.

Born Lewis Allan Reed in Brooklyn in 1942, Lou would go on to become one of the defining songwriters and guitarists of rock music for nearly fifty years, from his days with The Velvet Underground to his solo career later on. Glam, punk, and alternative all owe so much of their sound to him; he once said about his style, “One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.”

In memoriam, here’s today’s playlist: 10 essential Lou Reed tunes absolutely everyone needs to know. Rock on.

1. “Walk on the Wild Side”

Like a lot of people born after the ‘60s and ‘70s, the first Lou Reed song I ever heard was this one. It’s been part of my cultural consciousness for so long that I can’t actually remember WHERE I heard it that first time; our car radio was pretty much always tuned to the classic rock station growing up, though, so I imagine it was there. I had no idea what it was about until much, much later, but it was likely my first introduction to taboo topics like transsexuality as well.

2. “Sweet Jane”

“Sweet Jane” made its first appearance on The Velvet Underground’s 1970 album Loaded. Although Lou left the band in August of 1970, he continued to incorporate this tune into his solo act. It’s been covered by everyone from Phish to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, so you’ve probably heard it in one form or another before, even if you’re not familiar with the original.

3. “Satellite of Love”

A track off of Lou’s 1972 solo album Transformer, “Satellite of Love” never charted; hilariously, though, it’s ended up being one of his best known tunes: It’s been covered a billion times (including once by U2); it’s made appearances in things ranging from Velvet Goldmine to Gilmore Girls; the Satellite of Love was the setting of Mystery Science Theater 3000; and so on.

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