Jealousy, passion, indifference, hypocrisy and fragility: these are the ingredients of Berlin, the album released by Lou Reed in 1973. A hard and obscure masterpiece, as was the life of its author at that time. A work that delves deeply into his soul, the soul of an artist and a man, as a bitter awareness of a personal and collective failure.
Song after song, veil after veil, the album gets naked, showing us its true face, its true soul, with all the demons and fears. The involvement is total and, suddenly, unintentionally, as in a kind of osmosis, we find ourselves playing the role of the protagonists of its stories. We live their dramas, their fears, their fragility, their meanness, their uncertainties, because Lou has the ability to show us who we are, forcing us to dig in our consciences, for a merciless self-analysis.
There’s a song in particular, Men of Good Fortune. Jack Bruce, Cream’s bassist, was so fascinated by this song and its lyrics that he decided to play the bass line, that remains memorable. In that song, Lou tells us how the world is governed by unscrupulous, greedy people; how the wealth is focused in the hands of very few people, indifferent to the others’ pain. It tells us about the prevailing cynicism, the sufferings and injustice experienced by the most, the lack of justice and social equity.
Men of good fortune, often wish that they could die
While men of poor beginnings want what they have
And to get it they’ll die
A world governed in the worst possible way by “wealthy men”, cynical and fortunate, who have had so much from life that they arrive to desire to die. Just the opposite of the humble men, who just want to get what they need, until death.
Lou tells us about these people who “very often can’t do a thing” and still they are in command roles, thanks to corruption and private relations. They are the ruling class, while men with humble origins, who “often can do anything”, remain on the margins of society, enslaved by “Men of good fortune”.
Lou tells us how these lucky men have means, knowledge and ignorance to bring down millenarian civilizations, empires, mercilessly devastating traditions and cultures, “while men of poor beginnings, often can’t do anything at all.”
Men of good fortune, very often can’t do a thing
While men of poor beginnings, often can do anything
At heart they try to act like a man
Handle things the best way they can
They have no rich daddy to fall back on
Lou Reed tells us how cynical these people are, capable of everything for an inheritance, and how different the pain of “normal” people is. Because normal people measure the bonds in a different way. “The rich son waits for his father to die, the poor just drink and cry.”
What about us? How do we react in front of all this? We are all indifferent, we don’t care about anything, and Lou shoots it straight in our face, very direct: “And me I just don’t care at all.”
Men of good fortune, often cause empires to fall
While men of poor beginnings, often can’t do anything at all
The rich son waits for his father to die
The poor just drink and cry
And me I just don’t care at all
Dario Giardi loves music, photography and writing. He is the author of “Trip among the notes. The Secrets of Musical Theory and Harmony”. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.