When Lou Reed died last month from complications following a liver transplant, the world of rock music lost one of its most enduring and influential characters.
But while Lou Reed will be remembered for his music and the influence he had on artists including David Bowie, U2, Patti Smith and Morrissey, what do we know about the influences on Reed’s own music?
While studying at Syracuse University, Lou Reed was taught by Delmore Schwartz, who had a huge influence on Reed’s lyrical style. Lou Reed described Delmore Schwartz as his “spiritual godfather” and dedicated ‘European Son’ on the Velvet Underground and Nico album to Schwartz.
But it is his 1982 album ‘The Blue Mask’ that gives the best indicator of how Reed valued Schwartz’s influence. The song ‘My House’ tells of Reed’s relationship with Schwartz, calling him “my friend and teacher”. In the song, Reed writes that Schwartz “was the first great man that I ever met”.
In June 2012, Poetry magazine published a short prose piece by Lou Reed, ‘O Delmore how I miss you’, a tribute to Delmore Schwartz that makes several mentions of Schwartz’s seminal work, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities.
In Dreams Begin Responsibilities is the opening story in the collection of eight of Delmore Schwartz’s finest short stories, published by Souvenir Press. It is the first British paperback publication of a work of fiction that was the foundation for all post-World-War-Two American-Jewish fiction.
Discover the man who was a defining influence on Lou Reed, but died destitute and alone in a New York hotel aged only 52.