Today, Lou Reed passed at the age of 71.
I’ve never been a huge Velvet Underground fan. I’ve never been a huge fan of Lou Reed’s solo stuff either. Still, I understand and appreciate their impact on a lot of the music that I love. And a lot of bands that I love have covered VU songs. I know and like those covers, but I’ve never had intimate knowledge of the source material.
A lot of people have covered the Velvet Underground song “Sweet Jane”. Velvet Underground had been playing “Sweet Jane” live for some time, but a very different version appeared on the VU album Loaded in 1970. That Loaded version had different lyrics, different chord structure, and a very different tempo. Lou continued to do the Loaded version of the song as a solo artist for many years. Almost every band who has covered the song has used that version as the template.
Canadian country-rock band Cowboy Junkies famously covered the song in 1988, using the 1969: The Velvet Underground Live version as their template. The slower, sweeter version. Of all the dozens of covers, Lou Reed always said that he liked the Cowboy Junkies version best.
Cowboy Junkies released the song as a single, and it appeared on their 1988 The Trinity Session album. And on the soundtrack for Natural Born Killers. A version of them playing the song live also appeared on their 1995 compilation double album of live performances 200 More Miles: Live Performances 1985-1994.
Tonight’s song comes from that live performance, which was recorded in Toronto in December of 1993. It’s magnificent.
I used to be a huge fan of Cowboy Junkies, and I was lucky enough to see them play this song live once on an icy January night in DC. I think it was 1997. It was breathtaking.