Patti Smith Mourns Lou Reed in The New Yorker

Patti Smith and Lou Reed
Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

"When Lou said goodbye, his dark eyes seemed to contain an infinite and benevolent sadness"

In a moving, personal essay written for the New Yorker, storied punk singer and writer Patti Smith recounted her time with the recently departed Lou Reed.

Smith remembers first learning the sorrowful news on the morning of Oct. 27 via a text message from her daughter Jesse, while gazing at the water at Brooklyn's Rockaway Beach. She remembers the last time she saw Reed, a recent meeting in New York, where she "sensed that he was ill." In the text, she remembers, "When Lou said goodbye, his dark eyes seemed to contain an infinite and benevolent sadness."

Smith recalls meeting Reed for the first time in 1970, at a Velvet Underground show at the Manhattan club Max's Kansas City. She then describes coming to be familiar with him over the years, as he would often watch the Patti Smith Group and eventually gave his blessings to their covers of his music. Characterizing Reed as a sometimes intense, yet sensitive man with a devout relationship to literature, she writes:

"I didn’t understand his erratic behavior or the intensity of his moods, which shifted, like his speech patterns, from speedy to laconic. But I understood his devotion to poetry and the transporting quality of his performances. He had black eyes, black T-shirt, pale skin. He was curious, sometimes suspicious, a voracious reader, and a sonic explorer."

Lou Reed died at age 71, on Oct. 27, which Smith points out as the birthday of writers Sylvia Plath and Dylan Thomas.