It’s early spring, 1984. I am 18, living in a one-bedroom cottage on the outskirts of Athens, Ga. For the first time in my life, I am alone for days on end, unattached, free. I own next to nothing; a bass, an amp, some thrift store clothes, a few cassettes, a bad stereo, and the Velvet Underground’s first LP, which I purchase at Wuxtry Records because the guys in R.E.M. say it’s great, so it must be. (And it is.) I’m acutely aware I stand on a threshold, my childhood behind me, my as-yet-unwritten adulthood ahead. I’m mostly thrilled, but sometimes afraid. One March morning, it pours rain, and I make coffee and play the VU album, which begins with “Sunday Morning.” Lou’s voice is often remembered as caustic and sneering, but on this tune, he is the urban shadow man crooning words that I hear as encouragement, hope, and faith, all the more potent because they flow from this damaged guy’s mouth: Everything will be fine. The world awaits. People will detract, but don’t worry, all will be well. You’ll get hurt, yeah, but it’ll be worth it. Go for it. Live. Before the song ends, the sun comes out as the rain still pours on the monkey grass, and hundreds of tiny frogs appear out of the muddy soil, jubilant, dancing, as if heeding Lou’s call. In time, I would do the same.
Rest in peace, Lou.