Klosterman on Reed.
Reed died yesterday — somehow both predictably and surprisingly — at the age of 71. You probably won't find an obituary that fails to mention the cantankerous complexities of his character. In the punk oral history Please Kill Me, Reed's nastiness is literally described as "famous," which is completely accurate. He was uncommonly famous for acting like a prick; it was essential to who he was as a public figure. He was the single-most famous jerk in an idiom supersaturated with jerks who hope to be famous. But that's not why his death is such a loss. That's not what's important. What's important is that this universally shared opinion about Lou Reed's persona never made anyone question the merits of his music. You were allowed to think whatever you wanted about who he was as a person (mostly because he didn't seem to care), but there was never any argument over the veracity of his genius. Few rational listeners injected their discomfort with Reed's personality into the experience of hearing his records; even fewer concluded that the way he sometimes acted in public eroded the insight of his output. You might say, "I hate Lou Reed," but you couldn't say, "I hate Lou Reed and I hate all his music." If you did, it only meant you had terrible taste in everything. This is why Reed's life was such a profound, unparalleled success: He proved that the only thing that truly mattered about an artist was the art.