When I was in college, a group of us were looking at influences on the music that influenced us. Velvet Underground kept on appearing over and over. The joke became that they were the most influential band you’ve heard about but never heard.
There seems to be a weird disconnect today. Many on my Facebook friends-list are spending the evening listening to the Velvet Underground, while posting professionally written tributes to Lou Reed that basically read like that old joke. “There was this band; you have not heard of them, but they were influential to a lot of musicians you have heard.”
That’s not the half of it. A young Czech dissident was visiting the United States when he ran across Velvet Underground and Frank Zappa. He brought the music home, and bootleg copies became the soundtrack of Prague Spring. Later, much later, after the rebellion was destroyed by Soviet tanks he laid the groundwork and tried again, borrowing the name from the Velvet Underground for the Velvet Revolution.
Vaclav Havel is said to have once told Lou Reed “I am President because of you.”
That’s the nature of art. Not that it influences other artists in a vacuum but that it influences the world in sometimes unimaginable ways. I doubt that Lou Reed had any idea that what he was doing would be highly relevant in Czechoslovakia in 1968, much less in 1986, but it was.
That’s the promise of art. Art matters because it has an impact that reaches beyond even the artist’s own vivid imagination.
That being said, if you read many of the tributes tonight, you will find that he was “influential to a lot of musicians that you have actually heard about.”
Dad has some good things to say about it, but Facebook won’t let me really link to it, assuming I am only trying to link to where the Velvet Revolution and my family intersect. The link is good, but I encourage you to check out Dad’s post on Facebook as well.
Velvet Revolution Category