A Canadian university has apologized for playing Lou Reed’s hit song “Walk on the Wild Side” at a campus event because the song has been accused of being transphobic. However, Reed’s friends think the situation is “stupid.”
The student association at the University of Guelph in Ontario posted a since-deleted apology on Facebook for playing the song at a recent event.
“We now know the lyrics to this song are hurtful to our friends in the trans community and we’d like to unreservedly apologize for this error in judgment,” the Guelph Central Student Association wrote.
The opening lyrics of the song are known to be about transgender performers Holly Woodlawn and Candy Darling. Reed, Woodlawn and Darling were all members of Andy Warhol’s group of artists, musicians and actors known as “superstars.”
“Holly came from Miami, FLA/Hitchhiked her way across the USA/Plucked her eyebrows on the way/Shaved her legs and then he was a she. She says, ‘Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side,’” the lyrics read. “Candy came from out on the island, In the backroom she was everybody’s darling, But she never lost her head, Even when she was giving head, She says, hey baby, take a walk on the wild side.”
Reed’s producer Hal Willner told the Guardian the students “should be focusing their anger on other stuff.”
“I don’t know if Lou would be cracking up about this or crying because it’s just too stupid,” Willner says. “The song was a love song to all the people he knew and to New York City by a man who supported the community and the city his whole life… This song was how the world first heard about these people. The students should be focusing their anger on other stuff and this isn’t it.”
His former backup singer Jenni Muldaur also told the Guardian that the students misunderstood the meaning of the song.
“Lou was open about his complete acceptance of all creatures of the night,” Muldaur says. “That’s what that song’s about. Everyone doing their thing, taking a walk on the wild side. I can’t imagine how anyone could conceive of that. The album was called ‘Transformer.’ What do they think it’s about?”
Reed passed away in 2013 after a battle with liver disease.