I love The Velvet Underground, and I love Lou Reed even more. I remember when he died; by happenstance, I met up with a fellow music nerd not long afterwards and asked if they’d heard the news. They replied that they listened to all his music that day – just feeling it, letting themselves reflect on who Lou was, the impact he’d left.
Another, less-commonly discussed impact is Lou’s open discussion of his bisexuality. While not quite a queer icon, many, like myself, have appreciated that someone so widely revered in the music community was…not straight.
The thing is, I feel as though that that’s something erased from his narrative, and the narrative of “classic rock” in general. He wrote a song called “Venus in Furs” about BDSM, yet he’s been repackaged into one of the many white men who form the canon of “traditional” music that you, your dad, and most of your (let’s be real, male) friends listen to on repeat.
I was in a bookstore not too long ago and found myself in the “nonfiction” section. There were several books on Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. I immediately flipped to the indices of each book to see if “bisexual” was referenced. When that failed, I read through the section of the books that deal with Lou’s teenage years, when he was subjected to electroshock therapy to cure his homosexual urges.
No references, even though he wrote the 1974 song “Kill Your Sons” about it.
Why? Is it just that difficult for us to accept that someone so influential can also be queer?