Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right New York State icon-chevron-right New York icon-chevron-right Lou Reed tribute playlist
The Velvet Underground

Lou Reed tribute playlist

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

By Sophie Harris

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


“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


“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


“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


    You may also like