I'm Waiting for the Man

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"I'm Waiting for the Man"
I'm Waiting for the Man.jpg
1971 German single picture sleeve
Song by the Velvet Underground
from the album The Velvet Underground & Nico
ReleasedMarch 1967 (1967-03)
RecordedMay 1966
StudioTTG, Hollywood, California
Songwriter(s)Lou Reed
Producer(s)Andy Warhol
Audio sample

"I'm Waiting for the Man" (sometimes titled "I'm Waiting for My Man") is a song by the American rock band the Velvet Underground. Written by Lou Reed, it was first released on their 1967 debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico.

In various reviews, it is described as "tough garage rock", "proto-punk, and "one of the all-time classic rock songs", with renditions by a number of artists.

Composition and recording[edit]

A row of tenements on the Lower East Side

The song is about waiting on a streetcorner in Harlem, near the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street, in New York City and purchasing $26 worth of heroin (equivalent to $211 in 2019), sung from the point of view of the purchaser, who has presumably traveled to Harlem from another part of the city; the "man" in the title is a drug dealer.

Along with traditional guitars, bass, and drums, the song also features pounding, percussive rock-and-roll barrelhouse-style piano. It is one of the band's more popular songs, and one of their many compositions featuring drugs as subject matter.

Reception and legacy[edit]

In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song number 161 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[2] It noted:

Originally a rootsy Dylan hommage, the song evolved into a proto-punk classic steeped in New York grit. The Velvets mixed R&B rhythm-guitar workout, blues-piano stomp and dreamy art drone, as Reed deadpans a story about scoring $26 worth of heroin in Harlem. "Everything about that song holds true," said Reed, "except the price."[2]

In a song review for AllMusic, Dave Thompson called it "one of the all-time classic rock songs ... Over chunky guitar, clunking piano, and jackhammer drums, Reed half-sings, half-intones what he would once describe as a love song about a man and the subway."[3] He notes that it has been recorded by numerous artists, including "David Bowie and the Stooges [who] both cut fascinating takes on the song".[3] Bowie's later 1977 song "'Heroes'" was influenced by Reed's writing.[4] Each member of the Velvet Underground have performed the song based on their own interpretations.[3]


  1. ^ Deming, Mark. "The Velvet Underground & Nico – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. December 11, 2003. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Thompson, Dave. "The Velvet Underground: 'I'm Waiting For the Man' – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  4. ^ Buckley, David (2005). Strange Fascination: David Bowie: The Definitive Story (Revised ed.). Virgin Books. p. 280. ISBN 978-0-7535-1002-5. Retrieved May 20, 2018.