I was saddened to see one of rock’s titans pass. I always enjoyed Ronnie Ross’ baritone sax solo on “Walk on the Wild Side”, as well as the superb bass line and fun lyrics of “New Sensations”. It was as American as a song can get.

Yet does anybody remember that Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel (who came into office in 1989) admired and was influenced by Reed’s music? He was a big fan. Havel had smuggled a copy of The Velvet Underground and Nico into Czechoslovakia and it began a lifelong admiration and friendship for the transgressive New York artist. Later, Havel and Reed appeared in Wim Wenders films.

Here is Lou Reed and Vaclav Havel talking about the Velvet Underground and the “Velvet Revolution” that helped the Czech Republic break free of the USSR. The larger message is how rock and roll can change minds and history as well.

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