Lou Reed tribute playlist

Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground changed music and NYC. We celebrate Reed’s sonic legacy.



Add +

While we may have read Brian Eno’s quote about the Velvet Underground a thousand times since VU cofounder Lou Reed’s passing, it still holds true. “The first Velvet Underground record sold 30,000 copies in the first five years,” Eno said. “I think everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” Singularly influential, the Velvet Underground changed the sound, feel and look of music—not to mention the sound, feel and look of New York City; Reed is NYC’s patron saint of rock & roll. In his honor, we present a playlist of our favorite artists inspired by Lou. So pull on your leather jacket, take a walk around our great city and steep in the sounds.

RECOMMENDED: All Lou Reed coverage


“Roadrunner” (1972) by Jonathan Richman

Modern Lover Richman saw the VU over and over again as a teen. “I’m in love with rock & roll,” he sings on this throbbing track that bottles the Velvets’ “Sister Ray,” shakes it up and cracks it open in the middle of suburbia.

 Download “Roadrunner” on iTunes    Download “Roadrunner” on Amazon

“Is This It” (2001) by The Strokes

If the VU invented NYC rock & roll, the Strokes did a nifty job of reminding the kids why it felt so damn good. These pretty teens in skinny jeans would go on to cover Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” but the band’s breakout album, Is This It, was the real hit.

 Download “Is This It” on iTunes    Download “Is This It” on Amazon

“Teenage Riot” (1988) by Sonic Youth

Hypnotic, messed-up vocals; chiming, filthy guitars; and effortless, effortless cool—Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore said the song was about appointing Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis President—make this a perfect part of Reed’s misfit lineage.

 Download “Teenage Riot” on iTunes    Download “Teenage Riot” on Amazon

“Dream Baby Dream” (1979) by Suicide

“We started getting booed as soon as we came onstage,” cofounder Alan Vega has said of early Suicide shows. “Just from the way we looked they started giving us hell already.” If that’s not reason enough to include NYC art punks Suicide on this list…

 Download “Dream Baby Dream” on iTunes    Download “Dream Baby Dream” on Amazon

“Some Candy Talking” (1986) by Jesus and Mary Chain

England’s answer to the Velvet Underground rolled up, eyeliner and all, in the mid-’80s. The duo’s Psychocandy album went on to spawn its own genre: shoegaze.

 Download “Some Candy Talking” on iTunes    Download “Some Candy Talking” on Amazon

“Good Feeling” (1983) by Violent Femmes

Ecstatic, narcotic longing permeates the Femmes’ “Good Feeling.” Bassist Brian Ritchie recently said of the Velvet Underground, “They were the ones that made rock & roll intelligent. [Lou Reed] was a true artist. He didn’t care what people thought. He wanted to do what he wanted to do, regardless of the impact. I see him as a heroic figure.”

 Download “Good Feeling” on iTunes    Download “Good Feeling” on Amazon

“Car Wash Hair” (1991) by Mercury Rev

Heavenly melodies spiraled out of crashing dissonance on Mercury Rev’s 1991 debut, Yerself Is Steam, and Dave Baker drizzled his wobbly vocals over the top like they were honey. Bliss.

 Download “Car Wash Hair” on iTunes    Download “Car Wash Hair” on Amazon

“Rebel Jew” (1994) by Silver Jews

David Berman’s Silver Jews project received a ton of VU comparisons, but this witty, sad, funny number is actually written about Jesus Christ rather than Lou Reed. Perfect, then.

 Download “Rebel Jew” on Amazon

“Oscar Brown” (2001) by Baxter Dury

A track by new wave icon Ian Dury’s son, “Oscar Brown” wins our obscurity vote for its closing “Sweet nothin’ ” refrain and gloriously dark, sticky melancholia.

 Download “Oscar Brown” on iTunes    Download “Oscar Brown” on Amazon

“Run” (1992) by Spiritualized

A band born of Spacemen 3 (whose motto was “Taking drugs to make music to take drugs to”), Jason Pierce’s Spiritualized merged woozy drone with serious grooviness on this beyond-gorgeous cut—a veritable paean to Reed & Co.

 Download “Run” on iTunes    Download “Run” on Amazon

Users say


Lou Reed tribute playlist on Spotify

Live music calendar for New York City

  1. Mariah Carey

    This year, Mariah Carey's seasonal smash, Merry Ch...

  2. Make Music Winter

    Make Music New York, which inundates public spaces...

31 more events »

Time Out videos

Tweets by Time Out NY Music

Subscribe to Time Out New York on Spotify for playlists and recommendations from our Music team.

Check out New York's best restaurants, hottest street style, cool apartments and more.