I'm Waiting for the Man
|"I'm Waiting for the Man"|
1971 German single picture sleeve
|Song by the Velvet Underground|
|from the album The Velvet Underground & Nico|
|Studio||TTG, Hollywood, California|
"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.
Composition and recording
This section does not cite any sources. (September 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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
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."
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." He notes that it has been recorded by numerous artists, including "David Bowie and the Stooges [who] both cut fascinating takes on the song". Bowie's later 1977 song "'Heroes'" was influenced by Reed's writing. Each member of the Velvet Underground have performed the song based on their own interpretations.
- Deming, Mark. "The Velvet Underground & Nico – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved July 4, 2012.
- "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. December 11, 2003. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
- Thompson, Dave. "The Velvet Underground: 'I'm Waiting For the Man' – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
- 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.