So in 24 hours, two people who were hugely influential on my life have died.
I almost wrote “passed away” or “left us” because they feel more gentle, while “died” feels more raw, more uncompromising, more brutal, more … final. But that’s the way I feel this morning, so I’m leaving it. It’s an interesting example of how different words can mean the same thing but say it in distinctive ways.
I wasn’t into Velvet Underground when I was a kid, but I fucking loved Bowie. When I learned that there would probably not be a Bowie without Lou Reed, I dug into his catalog. I was in my early 20s, and mostly listening to punk and electronic music at the time. I fell in love with The Velvet underground, though, and it was very common for me to listen to Lords of Acid’s Lust, Tool’s Opiate, and the Velvets’ The Velvet Underground & Nico back to back to back.
I’ve written before about my introduction to The Simpsons when I was about 17 or maybe 18. Those first five season of the show, along with Ren and Stimpy, Beavis and Butthead, and MST3K basically created my sense of humor at a time when I was looking to cast off the trappings of youth and don the mantle of adulthood, not realizing that I was still very much a child.
I met Marcia Wallace once, briefly, when I worked with my friend Keith on his live talkshow in a theatre. She was kind and awesome and insanely funny. I never worked with her, but everyone I know who did just loved her. John Dimaggio positively adored her. The voiceover community is very small, much smaller than you’d think, but even within this tiny community there are a couple islands few people ever get to visit, and The Simpsons is one of them. Futurama was another, and it’s not surprising to me that they shared a few very talented performers.
I’m 41, and I have at least another 50 years ahead of me. Hell, by the time I’m an old man, science and medicine will probably done something to extend our lives even longer than that, but when two people who were so fundamental to my coming of age die, it makes me face my own mortality in a way that is a little more visceral than I’d like.
It seems like a lot of us who are in the creative community and in our 40s are hit pretty hard by Lou Reed’s death. By all accounts, he wasn’t the nicest person in the world, and one of those “don’t meet your heroes” kind of guys. But the music he created spoke to us at important times in our lives.
I was never part of the drug culture that Lou Reed wrote about, and I never had any interest in being part of it, but it was positively fascinating for me to read and hear about it from afar. His willingness to write plainly and honestly about being a junkie made me feel like he was saying to me, “Hey, kid, it’s okay to be a weird outsider. Let’s be weird outsiders together.”
I feel the same way about Kurt Cobain, for almost the exact same reason.
I think it’s kind of weird when people die and those of us who didn’t know them feel obligated to memorialize them, but here we are: Thank you, Marcia Wallace and Lou Reed, for being part of my life, even though you never knew you were.