June 5, birthday of Laurie Anderson (b. 1947)

When I heard “O Superman” in 1982, I became an instant fan. “Big Science” was like nothing I had ever heard–witty spoken word pieces that commented on absurdism in the US set to haunting and sometimes minimalist inspired music. Next came “Mr. Heartbreak,” which still mesmerizes me. But I stopped there, though I knew she continued to write, tour and perform. When I heard that she had married Lou around 2008, I went, “What?” I thought he was gay. After that, I rarely listened to her.

Then in October of 2013, Lou Reed died, and I thought about her. Having lost both my parents and one brother, when people fall in love and marry and then one dies, it really makes me sad. My father was married to my mom for 67 years and took care of her until she became obstreperous at the age of 92. Even after that, he would sleep with a pair of her pajamas beside him because he missed her so much. In 2015 Laurie released a film called “Heart of a Dog” and Laura and I went to see it. Though Laurie denied it was a tribute to Lou or a way of expressing grief and closing that chapter in her life, it ends with a picture of Lou and their dog, Lulabell, lying together on a bean bag chair. Later I read a biography of Lou, and it painted a picture of an amazingly unlikeable person, a megalomaniac, an alcoholic, & a control freak who could not stand to have anyone in his band outshine him.

Until yesterday, I never read anything about Laurie’s background. NYC in the 1960s and 70s was great place for artists and musicians. Abstract expressionism was dying, being replaced by Pop & Performance Art. Warhol’s Factory became a site for musical and artistic happenings, with Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground playing music that would influence the next generation that became Punk rockers ane New Wavers. In the 1970s serious music was moving from twelve-tone and atonal serialism, and complex and hypnotic non western rhythms, the spoken word, and concrete and found sounds became the building blocks of what started out as minimalism but eventually morphed into the neo-romantic & post-modern stuff that’s become part of today’s vernacular.

Maybe it was because John Lennon married the artist Yoko Ono, but somehow, visual and performance artists started becoming musicians and vice versa. Laurie was an art history and then sculpture major and wrote a symphony for automobile horn in 1969. So here’s a set of works stretching back to 1977 (the earliest I could find on Youtube). If you have other recordings of her earlier works or pieces you really like, please feel free to post.

Break it (1977)

Duets on Ice (2013 Version) Composed ~1970

From the Air

fJean Michel Jarre – Diva – Vocal performer: Laurie Anderson – Zoolook


Excellent Birds

Born, Never Asked

Mr. Heartbreak (Full Album)

About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

3 Responses to June 5, birthday of Laurie Anderson (b. 1947)

  1. I loved this, mostly for the touching tribute to your parents. And the bit about Lou Reed being unlikable made me smile. I never really liked Lou and your phrasing reminded me of a long-departed client, a jazz trumpeter, who said something like “so many of them [successful/respected musicians] are people you wouldn’t want to be around.”

    On the Laurie Anderson front, I hope I am not intruding if I add two videos. The first is the original, no later than 1980 mix of ‘Walking the Dog.’ I first heard it on a cut-out LP entitled ‘Attack of the Killer Bs’ where I think it nestled next to Marshall Crenshaw’s original unreleased version of ‘You’re my Favorite Waste of Time.’ I loved the angular violins which I later heard echoed in the opening of the Balenescu Quartet’s “East.”

    The second is of the closest thing she ever had to a hit, ‘Language is a Virus,’ a notion dear to my heart used to be played in the now long gone clubs of downtown Manhattan in the mid 1980’s.

    Walking the Dog

    Language is a Virus

    Liked by 1 person

    • kurtnemes says:

      Thanks very much for you kind words, the links, and for reminding me about “Walking the Dog.” Love the Dolly Parton reference. Take care and all the best.


  2. Reblogged this on An Honest Con and commented:
    Something different from a blogger I follow. Kurt Nemes, a man far more knowledgeable about music than I and someone I learn from regularly, today focused on Laurie Anderson.

    Laurie and her husband, Lou Reed, were never my cup of tea. This is worth reading, though, especially the lovely tribute to Kurt’s parents.

    The music is worth exploring, too. I added a comment with links to two songs I like which weren’t in the original post. I may edit this after posting to move them up from as videos rather than links as the comments box allowed.

    Happy listening.

    Liked by 1 person

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