By Patricia Reaney
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Hundreds of fans gathered at a public memorial in New York on Thursday for rocker Lou Reed, the frontman of the 1960s band The Velvet Underground who died last month of liver disease at the age of 71.
As music blared from speakers at the outdoor memorial on the terrace at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, fans danced, sat and listened to Reed’s music and strolled through the crowd while his wife, performance artist Laurie Anderson, greeted friends and well-wishers.
“I love Lou Reed. I always felt like he was a genius and he always will be,” said Janet Baletti, 66, a fan of 40 years who traveled from Weehawken, New Jersey with a friend for the memorial. “He had such a beautiful aura about him.”
Reed, who died on October 27, months after a liver transplant, wrote songs that were a form of provocative dark poetry. They invoked his native New York and touched on androgyny, illicit sex and drug abuse, and he delivered them in a trademark monotone singing voice.
EXTRA: Rocker Lou Reed dead at 71
Thursday’s memorial was announced on Reed’s Facebook page as a simple celebration.
“No speeches. No live performances, just Lou’s voice, guitar music and songs – playing the recordings selected by his family and friends,” it said.
For Alan Bako, 65, of New York, the memorial was an opportunity to listen to Reed’s music, whose solo hits included “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Perfect Day,” and to remember the legendary rocker.
“I like his music and I like the idea that he’s a real New Yorker,” Bako said.
“I remember when I saw him at the Fillmore East with the Underground in the late ’60s,” he said, referring to the landmark New York club.
Reed formed The Velvet Underground with John Cale as an experiment in avant-garde rock. The group was managed early on by pop artist Andy Warhol, who spotted them after they performed in New York clubs.
The Velvet Underground was never a great commercial success but proved to be a vastly influential band and Reed was considered by many to be a godfather of the punk rock movement that emerged in the 1960s.
“The world has lost a fine songwriter and poet … I’ve lost my ‘school-yard buddy,’” Cale said on Facebook page after Reed’s death.