The passing of Lou Reed over the weekend marked both a loss for music and the sudden absence of an artist who spoke out against anti-semitism in his work.
The National Review recalls his attachment to Israel, both in spirit and with his presence.
He said that while “he had no god apart from rock ‘n’ roll” his Jewish roots and standing up for Israel meant a lot to him. He was a frequent visitor to the country, last performing in Tel Aviv in 2008, and his aunt and many cousins live in Haifa and other Israeli towns.
Reed even had an Israeli spider named after him to thank him for his support for the country.
The Times of Israel notes the late singer’s curious stance on Jewish matters, one that seemed both playful and possibly meant to throw reporters off.
He once reportedly told journalist Lester Bangs that he didn’t know any Jewish people. But, on another occasion, asked whether he was Jewish, he was said to have responded, “Of course, aren’t all the best people?”
He referenced his Jewish roots in his songs, using his lyrics to smite anti-Semitic comments, particularly those made by the Rev. Jesse Jackson (Good Evening, Mr. Waldheim).
Reed’s 1982 song “My House” was dedicated to his Jewish Syracuse University friend and mentor Delmore Schwartz, and contained the lyrics “My friend and teacher occupies a spare room / He’s dead, at peace at last the wandering Jew / Other friends had put stones on his grave / He was the first great man that I had ever met.