Lou Reed’s death spread on Sunday, some of the initial online reactions focused on the one he’d left behind: Laurie Anderson, music and performance icon and loving partner to Reed for nearly two decades.
“Would love to have listened in on dinner conversation at home between Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson,” tweeted Don Gonyea of NPR. “Two originals who found one another.” Darren Hayes, former Savage Garden frontman, added, “Deepest sympathy to Laurie Anderson for the passing of her husband Lou Reed. Anyone would be blessed to have 1 day of marriage like theirs.”
Very true, judging from how the über-creative pair publicly adored one another. And on Thursday, Anderson gave the world a beautiful glimpse into their relationship by publishing her own personal, poetic obituary to Reed, whom she married in 2008.
“To our neighbors,” the piece intimately began. It was published in the East Hampton Star, the local paper where the two had a second home on the East End of Long Island, in Springs, and continued:
What a beautiful fall! Everything shimmering and golden and all that incredible soft light. Water surrounding us.Anderson and Reed, at least from the outside, seemed to epitomize idealized love — artistic souls who loved and respected and supported each other without getting in each other’s way.
Lou and I have spent a lot of time here in the past few years, and even though we’re city people this is our spiritual home.
Last week I promised Lou to get him out of the hospital and come home to Springs. And we made it!
Lou was a tai chi master and spent his last days here being happy and dazzled by the beauty and power and softness of nature. He died on Sunday morning looking at the trees and doing the famous 21 form of tai chi with just his musician hands moving through the air.
Lou was a prince and a fighter and I know his songs of the pain and beauty in the world will fill many people with the incredible joy he felt for life. Long live the beauty that comes down and through and onto all of us.
— Laurie Anderson,
his loving wife and eternal friend
The two first met in the '90s in Munich, where they were both performing in the same music festival, though they were not living far from each other in New York City at the time. “She had just gotten this new Mac and was showing it off, and I was impressed by the Mac but I was really looking at her,” Reed told Charlie Rose during a joint interview on his show with Anderson in 2003. (Their rat terrier Lolabelle was also there, perched on Anderson’s lap in the studio the whole time).
Here’s just a handful of other reasons why the two were amazing together:
They were totally blasé about their actual marriage. After 12 dedicated years together, the pair decided in 2008, on a whim, to make it official. Speaking to BBC 6 Music shortly thereafter, Anderson said she and Reed had been in Boulder, Colorado, discussing things she hadn’t done in her life, when the topic of marriage came up. “And I was talking to Lou, you know about getting married — we're always talking about that — and he said, 'Well how about tomorrow?' I said, 'Okay'. We walked into the Boulder Mountain marriage license office and they said, 'Are you two related?' and we said, 'Not that we know of'... and we paid ten bucks and that's it, we're married.” The ceremony was “very low-key,” a rep told People at the time, as was a party at photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ NYC townhouse, where guests included filmmaker Julian Schnabel and music producer Hal Willner. "It was exactly what they wanted — an intimate gathering among friends," the rep said.
They were incredibly respectful of each other's work. Anderson, when asked by Charlie Rose in 2003 what she thought was the secret to Reed’s longevity as an artist, told him, “I think it’s the ability to tell the truth, really. And to not just kind of be decorative, but Lou’s songs are so direct and kind of shocking. They really don’t use metaphors…[but] kind of say things in a very plain and very stark and very beautiful way.”
Then Reed, in the 2012 documentary about the making of Anderson’s album “Homeland,” talked about wanting to be supportive of her creative process without over-influencing it. “I do a different kind of thing so I would never get involved in the kind of thing she does…The way she does it, her approach, I’d go crazy trying to do that,” he explained. Still, when Anderson almost gave up on the project because it felt “daunting,” leaving her “crying about it every day,” she said, Reed offered to sit with her until she finished it. “Sometimes it’s useful to have somebody else come in who loves and admires the thing you’re working on, but maybe has a little bit of distance. It’s useful to have someone you can trust, who’s on your side.”
They were united, active members of their community. Though critics called them “elitist” at the time, Reed and Anderson stuck to their guns in opposing NYC plans to build a garbage-truck garage and storage shed for 5,000 tons of road salt at the edge of their West Village neighborhood in 2009. “This is typical,” Reed told New York Magazine. “To put this at the apex of two parks is insane, so defaming the neighborhood, so insulting, so pointless. When you’ve just had a park restored.” Earlier, they’d helped raise funds for the creation of nearby Canal Park.
They were humble. When Silicon Valley Radio asked her in 2011, “What are the key ingredients to making a relationship work?” she laughed. “Oh you’ve asked the completely wrong person. I would never presume to make any comments about that. It’s just such a great miracle when things do work, and they work for such a wild variety of crazy reasons. To make any kind of pronouncements like that, I would just feel ridiculous."