A Last Goodbye to Lou Reed: Laurie Anderson, Paul Simon, Patti Smith Celebrate NYC Legend

Friends, family members, fellow musicians and loved ones gathered at the Apollo Theater in Harlem to mark 50 days since New York lost its favorite downtown son.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

New York City said goodbye to one of its own Monday with an evening of stories, prayer, postures and song. The late artist’s family, friends and loved ones gathered at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem for the show The Power of the Heart: A Celebration of Lou Reed, during which they all were seated onstage. The audience was filled with friendly faces as well, including such longtime supporters as Clive Davis, Wallace Shawn, Richard Belzer, Salman Rushdie, Jim Jarmusch and Dr. John.

With rows of lit candles lining the front of the stage and a large black- and-white photo of Reed looming above, the event -- organized by Reed's wife, Laurie Anderson, and producer, Hal Willner -- was an emotive farewell from start to finish.

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The wide-ranging celebration mixed old audio recordings, countless pictures and iconic film footage of Reed, along with new renditions of his songs and tender remembrances of his life. Reed’s tai chi mentor, Master Ren Guang Yi, gracefully exhibited the 21 Form, which he had specifically created for Reed’s practice in tight, urban settings. Later in the evening, his entire tai chi family would display the 21 Form as a devoted ensemble, onstage and off.

This special event, which took place exactly 50 days after Reed’s passing, included heartfelt thoughts from Anderson and Willner, Reed's sister Bunny, friend and neighbor Julian Schnabel, a rabbi from Israel and even his surgeon from Cleveland (Reed died of complications resulting from a liver transplant).

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These musings were, naturally, interspersed with musical numbers that included Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye performing “Perfect Day,” Paul Simon singing the Velvet Underground classic, “Pale Blue Eyes,” and Blondie's Debbie Harry taking on the beloved "White Light, White Heat." Singer Antony and guitarist Marc Ribot performed a heartbreaking version of “Candy Says” and Reed's bandmate from the Velvets, Moe Tucker, read a letter from John Cale, who was unable to attend. Bob Ezrin, fabled producer of Reed’s unforgettable Berlin album, read a Kaddish prayer along with Willner, accompanied by none other than Phillip Glass on piano.

The whole evening was extraordinarily respectful and high on sentiment, and the wonderful music performed was clearly only a part of a much larger celebration of Lou Reed’s life. Anderson closed things up with a beautiful violin instrumental she had composed for her partner of 20-plus years, after which the whole gang got up and boogied to an extended version of “Sister Ray” led by Kaye and Ribot with Patti Smith singing. It was a fitting finale: Reed's love Anderson surrounded by their dearest friends, saying goodnight and waving goodbye.

Set List:

1) Emily Haines sings "All Tomorrow's Parties"

2) Lenny Kaye and Patti Smith perform "Perfect Day"

3) Paul Simon sings "Pale Blue Eyes"

4) John Zorn alto sax improv

5) Thai Chi Master Ren does the 21 Form

6) Hal Willner speaks

7) Antony and Marc Ribot perform "Candy Says"

8) A testimonial by Susan Feldman

9) Moe Tucker reads John Cale's letter

10) The Persuasions sing "Turning Time Around"

11) Surgeon Charlie Miller speaks

12) Bob Ezrin and Hal Willner read a Kaddish prayer accompanied by Phillip Glass on piano

13) Debbie Harry sings "White Light, White Heat"

14) Jenni Muldaur sings "Jesus"

15) Julian Schnabel reads "Rock Minuet"

16) Tai Chi friend Scott Richman speaks

17) Thai Chi family does the 21 Form

18) Master Ren does 13 Step Form with saber.

19) Laurie Anderson speaks and plays "Float," a violin instrumental composed for Lou

20) Lenny Kaye and Mark Ribot lead into "Sister Ray," Patti Smith sings and everybody boogies

Twitter: @THR_Earshot