‘Well I’m beginning to see the light. Some people work very hard, but still they never get it right.’
‘The sun’s coming up, like a big bald head.’
”Sweet Jane. Some people they like to go out dancing, and others, they have to work. And there’s even some evil mothers, they will tell you that everything is just dirt. That women never really faint, that villians always blink their eyes. That children are the only ones who blush, and that Life is just to die. But anyone who had a heart, they wouldn’t turn around and break it, anyone who had a heart, they wouldn’t turn around and hate it. Sweet Jane.” –Lou Reed
“So if you see a man who’s falling, pick him up and carry him. And if you see a woman who’s falling, bring her all into your arms. Because we don’t know where we come from, we don’t know who we are. And you, you\re no one. And you, you’re falling. And you, you’re travelling, travelling at the speed of light.” –Laurie Anderson
For those of you over forty, ponder this: Which music affected you the most when you were around 20-22 years old? I bet you can all remember exactly who it was. If you are still in your thirties or younger, well you can still think about it. And how telling it is now to think about the music you listened to then, what you were doing, who you were sleeping with (yeah right, nowadays they call it ‘hooking up,’ sorry kids) and what you were generally thinking about back then. Have you changed your outlook on life dramatically, or if you looked at yourself square in the eye in a mirror, would you have to admit that what you believed in so passionately back then, still holds true today?
When I was between seventeen and twenty years old, Lou Reed was my hero. Some friends introduced me to his music in high school, and I was immediately hooked. There was something so amazing about his music, both with the Velvet Underground and his solo albums. His songs were simultaneously joyful and dark, and as listened, I understood his depth as a human being through his music, the sheer joy of being alive, and also the dark despair he experienced as a human being on earth. This in turn helped me to balance on my own razor’s edge between despair and embracing the light. During those years, I would listen to his albums over and over, nearly every day at times. For one period of time, I became obsessed with his album Berlin, which has to be one of the most original and sublimely dark depictions of life in the modern world ever written and played. I guess I was reveling in the melancholy and horror of it all. My other favorite albums by Lou Reed were Coney Island Baby and Rock and Roll Heart. If those of you reading have never heard this music, I highly recommend that you find and listen to them. All these years later, the music is as heartfelt, uplifting and melancholic as ever. Lou Reed is a kind of icon in the world of rock music today, like a founding father of that genre. A true artist and humanitarian, and I have no doubt, a real gentleman. A real human. A mensch.
Then came my Laurie Anderson phase. For a few years after Lou, I got totally hooked on Laurie Anderson’s music. (Again, if you are not familiar with her music, find it and listen, really listen to it.) She is, to put it simply, absolutely brilliant. The album (actually it was a cassette tape) I first listened to was Home of the Brave. Every day, again, for about a year or more. When her album Strange Angels came out, it instantly became my favorite. I listened to her songs as a kind of daily religious ritual when I was around 25-26, and they changed me, they shaped me and how I saw life.
In a very real way, Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed have become a part of my soul, woven into its fabric forever. Now it is many years later, and my musical tastes run more towards jazz, Mozart and Mendelsohn, South American womens’ music, and an insatiable urge to try out music I have never heard of from the Danish library. And yet. Perusing the Silkeborg library’s music section the other day, I found a fairly new album by Laurie Anderson, called Homeland. I brought it home, devoured all the lyrics, and then listened to the music. Such brilliance, shining out of the darkness of music’s collective chaos in the year 2012. Laurie Anderson is, like her husband Lou Reed (ironically they have been together for twenty years!), a True Artist. Clear vision, laser focus, playful attitude, and extreme curiosity, combined with flawless execution. It was a kind of homecoming to watch the DVD about how this album was made, where both she and Lou Reed were interviewed and spoke about music, creativity, love and the loss of country she experienced during the US’s invasion of Iraq. Her music, as her long-time producer and friend phrased it, is at once extremely personal and universal. Laurie Anderson has no pretense, no one to impress, save herself. She is only interested in creating amazing works of art, experimenting and having fun while doing it. It took three years and thousands of hours of work for her and her fellow musicians and engineers, with some help from Lou, to create Homeland. Find it, take it home and make yourself sit down and listen to it. It’s worth it. It is a beautiful and amazing work of art. And funny.
Rocks and stones. Broken bones. Everything eventually comes crawling home.
In the night. In the night.
And when the tears fall from both my eyes
they fall from my right eye because I love you.
And they fall from my left eye because I cannot bear you.
Another day in America, by Laurie Anderson (excerpts)
Yes some were sad to see those days disappear. The flea markets and their smells, the war, all the old belongings strewn out on the sidewalks. Mildewed clothes and old resentments and ragged record jackets.
And ah these days. All these days! What are the days for? To wake us up. To put between the endless nights.
And you know the reason I really love the stars is that we cannot hurt them. We can’t burn them or melt them or make them overflow. We can’t flood them or blow them up or turn them out. But we are reaching for them. We are reaching for them.
Some say our empire is passing. As all empires do. And others haven’t a clue what time it is or where it goes or even where the clock is.
And oh the majesty of trees. An unstoppable train. Different colored wonderlands. Freedom of speech and sex with strangers.
Dear old God, may I call you old? And may I ask: Who are these people? Ah America! We saw it. We tipped it over and then we sold it. These are the things I whisper softly to my dolls, those heartless little thugs dressed in calico knits and jaunty hats and their perpetual white toothy smiles.
And oh my brothers and oh my sisters. What are days for? Days are where we live.
The flow and then the flow. They come, they fade, they go and they go.No way to know exactly when they start or when their time is up.
Another day, another dime, another day in America. Another day in America. Oh my brothers and my long lost sisters. How do we begin again? How do we begin?
- Laurie Anderson (3quarksdaily.com)
- Q INTERVIEW | Artist Laurie Anderson (cbc.ca)