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Hundreds of Fans Gather for Lou Reed Memorial at Lincoln Center

By Emily Frost | November 14, 2013 5:49pm
 The memorial featured no speeches, just the music of the late musician. 
Lou Reed Memorial at Lincoln Center
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Hundreds of Lou Reed fans both young and old gathered in Lincoln Center Thursday to pay tribute to the legendary rocker by simply listening to his songs.

The memorial, which featured three hours of Reed's music spanning his time in the Velvet Underground to his solo career, was broadcast across Lincoln Center Plaza from the Paul Milstein Pool and Terrace.

Reed died at the age of 71 in East Hampton on Oct. 27, and the memorial was sponsored anonymously and announced to fans via Reed's Facebook page Tuesday

Though there were no speeches or even an introduction, the event was punctuated by the arrival of artist Laurie Anderson, Reed's widow, who seemed in good spirits, laughing and chatting with friends and fans. 

"He would have loved it," she said, adding that she was touched "by all of it."

Hundreds of people found their way to the plaza, many sitting quietly in the chairs assembled under the plaza's small forest of trees. Some sat along the ledges lining the arts center's buildings, watching from a distance, or leaning against trees in small groups. 

People clapped through gloved hands at the end of almost every song, ranging from "Pale Blue Eyes" to "Vicious." 

Others broke into dance, kicking up dust in the park where the music played. 

"I think music is made to dance to. It's a way of celebrating [Reed.] I hope I can get other people to dance, too," said a New Yorker named Annie, who did not want to share her last name. 

Isabella Varsivsky, 21, was one of the handful of young people who came out. An NYU student, Varsivsky said she'd been listening to Reed for more than a decade. 

"My father introduced me when I was a kid," she said. "My dad never really played baby music for us." 

Varsivsky said she was happy to see such a strong turnout, and while there weren't a lot of young people there, she said she had plenty of friends at school who were fans. 

For others, attending was as much about mourning and remembering Reed as it was longing for New York's past. 

"[Reed] represents the city so much. He's what the city used to be — more bohemian and about the arts," said Claudia Tienan, 56, who said listening to the Velvet Underground was one of the reasons she moved to New York City from Minneapolis in 1975. 

Luc Lewitaski, 20, a student at NYU, said he was surprised by the initial response to Reed's death and was waiting for a chance to publicly grieve the musician.

"I found it troubling that so few people were revering him," he said. "[The memorial] is being able to relate to that grief with a bunch of like-minded people. Having just Lou's voice — that was a great decision."

Others agreed that the speechless tribute was fitting.

"He's a mysterious figure," said Steve Mayone, 48, who held his 8-month-old son Rocco, who wore earplugs, on his chest in a baby carrier, noting the "unusual" memorial made sense.

Mayone, a musician, said he was introducing Rocco to Reed, but that ultimately he'd let him make up his own mind. 

"It's touching and uplifting," he said, noting that he was happy to see Anderson circulating among the crowd. 

As favorite songs were played through two sets of towering speakers, fans frequently found themselves overcome by the desire to tap their feet or nod their heads to the hits. 

"I love Lou Reed — he's part of my DNA," said Steve Knutson, 54, who met a friend at the tribute.

"He's one of the greatest artists, poets and musicians of my generation."