While I was a music journalist before I was a film one, I couldn’t even fathom writing a proper obituary of rock n’ roll icon and pioneer Lou Reed right now, who passed away today at the age of 71 of undisclosed reasons (the former Velvet Underground singer underwent a liver transplant in May). For that, you could read the obit over at our friends’ music site, Consequence Of Sound. But Reed meant a lot to everyone here, certainly this writer and pretty much anyone who ever cared about some of the fundamentals of rock n’ roll.
Reed’s history with movies wasn’t huge compared to some rock icons out there who have made the transition into acting, scoring, or even writing and directing, but it’s probably significantly bigger than you might remember. Perhaps most memorably he played a domineering music producer in “One Tricky Pony,” the 1980 film that Paul Simon wrote and starred in (Reed’s character slicks up a song Simon and co. mean to be a little bit more raw; Rip Torn hilariously plays the record company exec). In 1983’s “Get Crazy,” Reed cameoed as a metaphysical folk singer and antisocial recluse that was meant to be a spoof of Bob Dylan. He also leant his voice to animated movies three times. First, the much forgotten “Rock & Rule,” Clive A. Smith‘s musical science fiction film from Canada’s Nelvana studio in 1983 (Reed wrote a song and doubled as the voice of the protagonist Mok Swagger; it also included songs by Cheap Trick, members of Blondie, Iggy Pop, and more). The second major voice role, mostly unknown to Americans as it never really screened here until after the fact, was a villain in Luc Besson‘s animated “Arthur and the Great Adventure” films for kids (the first and third entries in the series; they were big hits in France).
Even more, Reed had a memorable cameo in Wayne Wang‘s 1985 film “Blue in the Face,” starring Harvey Keitel—a sort of sequel/spin-off outtakes movie from Wang’s “Smoke” that centered around a Brooklyn Cigar Store and its manager Auggie (Keitel). It also featured cameos by folks like Jim Jarmusch, Lily Tomlin, Madonna, Michael J. Fox and many more (based on Paul Auster‘s novel “Smoke,” Reed also cameoed in Auster’s first real directorial debut on his own “Lulu On the Bridge“).
Other memorable moments of Reed’s music in cinema include “Satellite Of Love” employed in Todd Haynes‘ paean to ’70s glam rock “Velvet Goldmine”; the use of “Magic Moment” in David Lynch‘s “Lost Highway“; the rather hilarious cover of the Velvet Underground’s “After Hours” in Michel Gondry‘s “The Science of Sleep” (retitled “If You Rescue Me“); “Street Hassle (Waltzing Matlida)” featured memorably at the end of Noah Baumbach‘s “The Squid & The Whale“; the VU outtake “Stephanie Says” in Wes Anderson‘s “The Royal Tenenbaums“; the begining bars of VU’s “Heroin” in “Killing Them Softly“; “I’m Sticking With You” in “Juno,” and the instrumental “Rouge” in Julian Schnabel’s “Before Night Falls” from Reed’s 2000 album Ecstasy (which Schnabel also guested on).
Do you have a particular favorite? Watch some of these related clips, including the full version of “Lou Reed’s Berlin,” and sound off below. And needless to say, Reed will be missed, but his musical influence is already the stuff of legend.