The other day I heard that Lou Reed passed away. Reed was a moving force in Rock and Roll during the time period I was coming of age. I never was much of a fan but thought the guitar work in Sweet Jane was awesome (or groovy as we used to say). Reed and his group the Velvet Underground never reached the popularity of lets the say the Stones, Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple but they inspired other musicians to step outside the box. It was said that they only sold 30,000 copies of their first album but 30,000 bands were started because of it.
When I heard the news I thought of other artists from the 60’s and 70’s who have passed on to what’s next. In fact, back in 1974 the Righteous Brothers did a tribute song to artists that died young, usually from drug overdoses. The list in 1974 included Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison of the Doors. The Righteous Brothers did a remake in 1991 (below) to take into account other artists who had passed since 1974.
One of the lines in the tribute is “if there is a rock and roll heaven, then you know they have one hell of a band.”
Another line is, “if you believe in forever, the life is just a one night stand.”
The song is heavy on sentimentality as well as appreciating the various artists for their contributions to rock and roll history. In 1974 I reacted to it with some sentimentality (I really liked Hendrix) and a vague nod to the line that if heaven had a rock band these folks would be in it.
In 1974 I was in my agnostic days, not real sure there was a God, but if there was he would be a swell guy and when we died all good folks would be in heaven (if there was one) with him. That would include all the rock idols who died and were mentioned in the Righteous Brothers tribute song.
Then as now, people make assumptions about heaven and even more assumptions about God (if they even consider him at all) as well as assumptions about their own goodness. I was one such person. If there was a heaven and a swell God then I was probably good enough to make the cut.
When I visited YouTube to listen to Lou Reed’s Sweet Jane once more comments assumed that old Lou was now in that awesome, heavenly, rock and roll band. That saddened me.
A long time ago a wealthy young man approached Jesus and he asked what must he do to inherit eternal life. He asked the best question that anyone could ever ask and he asked the right person to boot. He didn’t like the answer because he valued something else more, but at least had the sense to ask the right question to the right person. (Mark 10:17-31)
It was with sadness that I learned of Lou Reed’s passing. It was not because I thought he was a great artist and all that sentimental stuff. What I know of Lou Reed was true of many of my rock and roll idols from the 60’s and 70’s. They may have been great musicians and singers but they rarely, if ever considered eternal things and on the whole, as one friend noted, were lousy role models. Like me, they made assumptions and probably like that wealthy young man so many years ago never considered what Jesus had to say about what comes next and what it takes to get there.
As for God being a swell guy? I like what C.S. Lewis said in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: