Everyone’s favorite indie rocker, Lou Reed, passed away on October 27th at the age of 71. Although much is known about Reed’s career, personal life, and even religious views, one interest of his that has not been in the public eye quite so much is his love of Catalonia and Catalan culture.
In fact, Reed had demonstrated his love for Catalan culture on many occasions and had even actively contributed to the promotion of Catalan culture round the world, despite having no family ties to the place. For years, Reed had worked with the Ramon Llull Institute, the public body that is charged with promoting the Catalan language, art, and literature among many other cultural pursuits, abroad.
Reed first came to Catalonia in 1975, during the height of the Franco regime, to perform his music on stage. The regime only allowed the concert to go ahead if Reed censored himself by not performing several of his more risque songs including his international hit “Heroin.”
Decades later, Reed participated in the First Catalan Poetry Recital in English along with Laurie Anderson and Patti Smith in New York in 2007. Organized by the Ramon Llull Institute, the event featured Reed reading famous Catalan poetry written by the likes of Gabriel Ferrater, Perejaume, and Maria Mercè Marçal translated into English. The event was a wild success, in spite of the initial hesitation of its organizers at featuring never before heard internationally Catalan poetry. Reed and the other performers personally contributed to the poetry selection for their readings.
In 2008 Reed participated in the Kosmopolis Festival of Literature hosted by the Barcelona Centre of Contemporary Culture. Reed read works by Salvador Espriu, Joan Brossa, and Josep Carner – all Catalan authors. A few days after event, Reed presented his own book, Pass Through Fire, in Barcelona where he once again stated his admiration and emotional attachment to Catalan poetry.
So entrenched was Reed in Catalan literature that, according to the former director of the Ramon Llull Institute, for months Reed’s outgoing voicemail message on his personal cell phone was a fragment of a poem by Catalan poet Blai Bonet.
Lou Reed’s incredible contributions to not only Catalan literature, but also the global artistic scene will be deeply missed both in Barcelona and around the world.