Musically, Lou Reed was profoundly important, but there was another component to his public persona that cannot be overlooked: He was the first queer icon of the 21st century, 30 years before it even began.
As early as the late 1960s, Lou proclaimed with beautifully confusing candidness a much more 21st-century understanding of a fluid, moving sexuality. He saw beyond – and lived outside – a society locked into a simplistic straight/gay binary division. Through his public persona, his art and music, he boldly refused labels, very publicly mixing things up and providing a "Whoa, that's possible?" avenue of sexual exploration and identity examination, all with whip-smart nonchalance. He was indefinable, he was other, he was outside of society. He spearheaded a new cool, and he did not care if you "got it" or not. Lots of people did get it: Bowie, Iggy, the New York Dolls, Freddie Mercury and Queen, Elton John, Marc Bolan, Brian Eno and Roxy Music; and then punk rock, with Patti Smith, Television, the Damned, the Stranglers, the Sex Pistols; at the same time the Bee Gees, the Village People, Grace Jones; and through to Joy Division, the B-52s, Madonna, Prince, Culture Club, Depeche Mode, the Beastie Boys, the Smiths, R.E.M., the Replacements, Jane's Addiction, the Pixies, Nirvana, Björk, Antony and the Johnsons, Peaches, Scissor Sisters, Lady Gaga . . . every second, the list grows exponentially. Lou Reed was massively important to "Island of Misfit Toys" kids. Every single child of the 21st century who is not square owes him a moment of reflection and thanks.