Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Lou Reed's Secret Chord

Aw hell. Lou Reed is dead. There's a live version of "Sweet Jane" from 2003 that I can't find online right now but is worth a listen today, in the man's honor. Reed is noodling around with the song, working through that famous riff, more of a shuffle now than the strut you remember from the album. Just as the audience starts to clap with him, Reed stops. "So I thought I would explain to you how to make a career out of three chords," he says. "You thought it was three—it's really four. Watch." He plays the riff again, the way you sing it in your head. You know how it goes: D-D-A-G-G-G-A-D-D .... "Three," he says. "But what's really happening ..." And then he goes D-D-A-G-G-G-Bm .... He puts a little English on that B minor, and the audience starts to cheer and whistle, as if he'd just done a great coin trick. A secret chord, Reed has called it elsewhere, with cheeky self-effacement:

I'm sure he's done this bit a hundred times, but what I like about the 2003 version is his benediction, a small lesson about smuggling transcendence into the usual crap of the everyday, about being just a little better or a little smarter or a little more stylish than the world requires of you. "As with most things in life," Lou Reed says, "it's that little hop at the end." RIP.

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