During the mid-1980s, in an interview with legendary writer and director Cameron Crowe, Bob Dylan revealed six artists he admires. Split into the two separate camps of “some guys who got it down” and “secret heroes”, Dylan included some of pop culture’s heavyweights in his illustrious list. In the former, he named Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed and Northern Irish folk icon Paul Brady. In the latter were John Prine, David Allen Coe and Tom Waits.
To a music lover, the inclusion of Tom Waits into the “secret heroes” bracket might seem a little confounding as he is a musician of serious pedigree. After picking these six musicians, Dylan posited: “I listen more to that kind of stuff than whatever is popular at the moment, they’re not just witch doctoring up the planet, they don’t have barriers.”
Subsequently, Crowe asks if Dylan thinks there “are preconceived ideas about certain voices like yours and Leonard Cohen’s and Lou Reed’s?” Dylan responds: “I think Leonard’s voice is easily understood because his vocal range is low and straightforward (linear). Lou has his own way of singing and speaking at the same time.”
However, it is worth noting that Dylan’s inclusion of Reed might seem like the strangest addition on his list. It is well documented that Reed and Dylan were like chalk and cheese. Reed had gone on record criticising Dylan in the past, even going as far as calling him “a pretentious kike”, which is a downright slur. However, there must have been water under the bridge at some point, as Dylan included him in this exclusive list.
More surprisingly, in 1992, at the 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration celebrating Dylan’s career, Lou Reed performed ‘Foot of Pride’. Ironic, as Reed had also been disparaging about Dylan’s work in the past. Dylan also had the power to veto any performers he didn’t like for the celebration. Things between the pair of baritones couldn’t have been that bad then, religious discrimination aside?
Slagging one another off in public, while admiring each other behind closed doors seems to be the way for Dylan and the other baritones as mentioned above. When accepting the MusiCares Person of the Year award in 2015, Dylan got his own back. “Critics have been giving me a hard time since day one. Critics say I can’t sing. I croak. Sound like a frog. Why don’t critics say that same thing about Tom Waits? Critics say my voice is shot,” he said, adding: “That I have no voice. Why don’t they say those things about Leonard Cohen? Why do I get special treatment? Critics say I can’t carry a tune and I talk my way through a song. Really? I’ve never heard that said about Lou Reed. Why does he get to go scot-free?”
Furthermore, Dylan and Reed went way back. They both starred in Andy Warhol’s short films that were shot in the ’60s. In May 2018, these silent movies were screened in New York City’s Times Square. Entitled ‘Midnight Moment’, Warhol’s films also included iconic poet Allen Ginsberg and actress Edie Sedgwick.
Watch footage of Lou Reed performing ‘Foot of Pride’ at Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert below.