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Velvet Underground documentary omits band’s Jewish roots, but is still very cool

19 7 6

NEW YORK — I’m all about subjectivity when assessing art, but there are some things you just have to lay down as fact. One such example is this: The Velvet Underground is the coolest rock band there ever was. Maybe some Israeli tech startup can devise a gizmo that can scientifically prove this statement to be true, but until that day comes you’ll simply have to accept what I say.

The case has been abundantly clear since the mid-1960s, and if you haven’t been paying attention, there’s a spectacular new documentary from director Todd Haynes eager to show you the light — interestingly called “The Velvet Underground,” and out on October 15 on Apple TV .

Now, let’s be clear: they aren’t the best band. The singer had a range of about three notes, the musicianship wasn’t particularly nuanced, and while the lyrics were certainly transgressive, they drew their power from blunt force more than wit. But the group, led by the late Lou Reed (born Lewis Allan Reed, originally Rabinowitz) was not just an example of “right place, right time,” they helped create the place and time.

The place was New York City and the time was the ’60s just before they became “the ’60s.” The key players were Reed, a miserable suburban kid whose Jewish parents attempted to have the “homosexual tendencies” zapped out of him via electroshock treatment. (Reed’s sister, in a current interview, doesn’t exactly stand by that decision, but does defend her parents a bit with some “it was the times” prevarication.) Reed quit Long Island for Manhattan with the hopes of becoming a rock star, and ended up working as a songwriter for a discount record company, scratching out “sound-a-likes” and curiosities like “The Ostrich.” But inside was a dark........

© The Times of Israel

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