SXSW Panel: Lou Reed: A Rock & Roll Heart

Velvet Undergrounder found a voice to speak with

In the wake of Lou Reed’s death last October at age 71, Thursday’s Bill Bentley-moderated panel offered a wide range of unique perspectives on a great American musical life.

Photo by Gary Miller

Veteran NYC rock storyteller Garland Jeffreys became friends with Reed in 1961 at Syracuse University. He fondly recalled how he and Reed spent afternoons drinking with poet Delmore Schwartz.

“The key for Lou and I was our love of R&B, especially doo-wop,” offered Jeffreys. “I think he was jealous that I could actually sing like that.”

Sylvia Reed, who was married to Lou from 1980 to 1994, focused on the degree to which he strove to make his music perfect: “He was almost like a Japanese calligrapher in terms of his desire for perfection.”

Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke was one of the few journalists Reed trusted after an infamous back-and-forth with Lester Bangs. From Fricke’s perspective, Reed’s reputation for causticity toward the press was rooted in the belief that journalists should care as much about their craft as he did.

“He wanted me to be a good writer and a good interviewer,” acknowledged Fricke.

Jerry Harrison recalled seeing the Velvet Underground at Harvard in 1967, but not recognizing their importance until Jonathan Richman came along. The onetime Modern Lover read “He Couldn’t Find a Voice to Speak With,” a poem Reed submitted to a Harvard literary magazine. Then he shared Reed’s initial assessment of Talking Heads.

“I think one of his comments was that David’s arms were a bit hairy,” Harrison deadpanned.

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at Sign up for our South By-specific newsletter at for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Angel Olsen Entrances Mohawk
Angel Olsen Entrances Mohawk
Her other shoe drops tonight at the Red River favorite

Abby Johnston, Feb. 7, 2017

Out of the Gutter
Out of the Gutter
The Bulemics grow up

Tim Stegall, April 1, 2016

More by Greg Beets
Our Music Critics Pick Their Top 10 Austin Albums of 2018
Our Music Critics Pick Their Top 10 Austin Albums of 2018
80 local picks from Molly Burch to Brownout

Dec. 28, 2018

Our Music Critics Pick Their Top 10 Austin Albums of 2018
Our Music Critics Pick Their Top 10 Austin Albums of 2018
80 local picks from Molly Burch to Brownout

Dec. 28, 2018


Lou Reed, SXSW Music 2014, Velvet Underground, Bill Bentley, Garland Jeffreys, David Fricke, Jerry Harrison, Talking Heads, Delmore Schwartz, Lester Bangs, Jonathan Richman

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle