Dylan Thomas and Lou Reed Were Two True Rock Stars

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By Lleucu Siencyn

Recently the rock world lost Lou Reed. Lleucu Siencyn says his cultural contribution matched that of Dylan Thomas.

Lou Reed

This week, I’m taking a walk on the wild side in tribute to the great rock-poet Lou Reed, who died just a few months ago, on what would have been the 99th birthday of Dylan Thomas. It’s worth looking at the lives of these two legends, which encapsulate the blurred lines between rock ‘n’ roll and poetry.

Dylan died in New York 60 years ago on November 9, at the age of 39. He died of medical malpractice rather than the effects of 18 double whiskeys.

But the myth of the excessive passionate poet has kept its appeal. So has the louche, loose, heroin-fueled 1960s New York, which belonged to Lou Reed and his band The Velvet Underground.

Before he died, Dylan fell in love with New York, and it’s fair to say that the feeling was mutual.

He toured the USA four times between 1950 and 1953, spending a lot of time in Greenwich Village, the cultural heart of 1950s New York—a melting pot of jazz musicians, poets, painters and thinkers.

Dylan was at the center of all this, entertaining fellow drinkers and generally having a great time.

He became America’s first rock-star poet, and his public performances attracted thousands.

His second trip to New York in 1952 concluded in a recording of his poetry, which was released in America by Caedmon Records.

Seeing Dylan live was the literary equivalent of seeing Elvis in his prime.

Lou Reed formed the Velvet Underground in 1964 with another great Welshman, John Cale.

When I discovered as a teenager that the coolest band in the world featured a Welsh speaker, I began to harbor fantasies about spending Sunday mornings in New York, following in the footsteps of John Cale and Dylan Thomas.