I believe in the sun
though it is late
in rising

I believe in love
though it is absent

I believe in God
though he is
silent. . . .

--Anonymous, from an unsigned inscription found on the wall of a cave in Cologne where Jews had been hiding during the Holocaust

Lou Reed, Songs for Drella (1990)

This album was the first collaboration in decades between bandmates Lou Reed and John Cale, whose artistic and personality conflicts caused the Velvet Underground to eventually disintegrate. The album was a tribute to the recently deceased “Drella”, a nickname for pop artist Andy Warhol combining the words “Dracula” and “Cinderella”. Warhol, who died in 1987, was a manager for the band and shepherded them through their early years, as well as designing the infamous banana peel cover for their first album. He was also a friend and a mentor for Reed in particular.

This song in particular deals with Reed’s strained relationship with Warhol in the aftermath of Warhol’s shooting on June 3, 1968. Valerie Solanas (1936-1988) was a prostitute and hanger-on at The Factory, Warhol’s studio and groupie hangout. Her literary endeavors included the manifesto for an organization of one called SCUM: the Society for Cutting Up Men, which she sold on the streets for a dollar to women and for two dollars to men. She wrote a play called Up Your Ass and insisted that Warhol produce it, pestering him for a year about it. Unfortunately for him, Warhol not only refused to produce the play but lost the only copy of it. So one day she showed up at the Factory with a .32 caliber pistol and shot him, as well as an art critic named Mario Amaya who had been waiting to see Warhol. Solanis managed to hit Warhol with only one of the bullets she fired, but that bullet passed through both his lungs, his spleen, his stomach, his liver, and his esophagus. Warhol was clinically dead, and while doctors managed to resuscitate him, he never fully recovered, and complications from these injuries were most likely responsible for his death during a routine gallbladder operation two decades later.

Solanis turned herself into a traffic cop in Times Square and said she shot Warhol because "He had too much control of my life." She spent little time in prison, and most of that in the psychiatric ward. Amazingly enough, Solanis has become a weird sort of feminist folk hero in some circles, culminating in the 1996 movie I Shot Andy Warhol, where she was played by Lily Taylor. But perhaps it's not so amazing after all, because there has always been a romantic strain in the culture that tends to admire the insane and psychotic. Reed’s response to this idea is that there is something terribly wrong when a woman like that is admired and not punished. It’s not a juvenile, bloodthirsty call for capital punishment, it’s a primal metaphorical response to a world where the traditional rules of morality are inverted, mingled with his guilt about his deteriorated relationship with his mentor.

The lost copy of Up Your Ass turned up years after both Solanis and Warhol died, in a trunk that belonged to another Factory regular, Billy Name. It was produced in San Francisco in 2000 by George Coates, who added some songs to the 40 minute piece. It got mixed reviews, though nearly everyone, probably out of surprise, noted that there were some genuinely funny scenes in the mess. In a sad sign of the changing times, they were careful to note that the play was not funded by the NEA.

Valerie Solanas took the elevator got off at the 4th floor
Valerie Solanas took the elevator got off at the 4th floor
She pointed the gun at Andy saying you cannot control me anymore

And I believe there's got to be some retribution
I believe an eye for an eye is elemental
And I believe that something's wrong if she's alive right now

Valerie Solanas took three steps pointing at the floor
Valerie Solanas waved her gun pointing at the floor
From inside her idiot madness spoke and bang
Andy fell onto the floor

And I believe life's serious enough for retribution
I believe being sick is no excuse and
I believe I would've pulled the switch on her myself

When they got him to the hospital his pulse was gone
they thought that he was dead
His guts were pouring from his wounds onto the floor
they thought that he was dead
Not until years later would the hospital do to him what she could not
what she could not
Andy said, "Where were you, you didn't come to see me"
Andy said, "I think I died, why didn't you come to see me"
Andy said, "it hurt so much, they took blood from my hand"

I believe there's got to be some retribution
I believe there's got to be some restitution
I believe we are all the poorer for it now

Visit me, visit me
Visit me, visit me
Visit me, visit me
Visit me, why didn't you visit me
Visit me, why didn't you visit me
Visit me, visit me
Visit me, why didn't you visit me
  I believe in the one God, maker of heaven and earth,
  of everything visible and invisible.

  And in the one Lord Jesus Christ, his only son, (...)
A whole litany of 'I believe' (credo in Latin) is a fixed part of the Roman Catholic mass. The users profess their belief in God, some of the dogmas of the Christian faith, the Holy Church, etcetera.

Personally I'm more inclined to the response given by John Lennon in his song, 'God'.

Start Again


I remember summer camp. It was a camp in New Hampshire run by a collection of churches under the same denomination. I remember the minister who had been appointed to counsel kids at the camp. His name was Denny Moon. We used to joke about being "Moonies." This was in the 1970s, when all the stories about Reverend Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church were big news.

I would end up leaving the church at the age of thirteen, having serious doubts about the nature of organized religion, but my parents insisted that I needed to spend a couple weeks during the summer away at camp. It wasn't a bad camp. It wasn't even really a religious camp. It was a lot of young teenaged boys and girls learning how to swim, doing arts and crafts, taking nature walks, playing sports, and all the usual summer camp fare. The thing was, back then I was extremely introverted and shy and being away from home tended to freak me out.

Tears, tears at the water's edge
Hey little sister, give us laughter instead
Tears for the teacher, from the eyes, from the soul
This restless spirit takes a long way back home
Like the wind, you are free
Just a whisper - I hear you, so talk to me

My relationship with the Reverend Denny Moon took on great meaning during those two weeks at camp. While other kids made fun of me and tormented me for my shyness, he took me under his wing. We talked about things. He even wanted to talk to me about my doubts about Christianity. He never judged me on what I said or thought, which was the main reason I had such troubles in church. Too many people were not open to alternative viewpoints. They spoke in dogma. Denny thanked me for having ideas and opinions.

Denny was fairly young. At the time he was younger than I am now with long hair and a bushy beard. He came to our church to be the youth minister the following year and then left. It troubled him when people, especially children, thought of faith as fact. He used to tell me that you needed to believe in something for it to really mean something. To call it fact and preach it as fact to others defeated the whole meaning of faith.

Oh, I believe, eye to eye
Say brother, sisters, see your brothers in the sky
Neighbour, neighbour, don't be so cold
It's only glory from the story I'm told

I helped him move when he took on his own church somewhere out in the wilderness. I had already left the church and was shunned by all those I knew except for Denny and two other people. Wally and Judy were married in those days. They were friends of my parents and understood me better than my parents did. Wally and Judy helped our church start a summer day camp and asked me to be a counselor. I thought they were crazy. You want your good little Christian kids to be exposed to the infidel? They said "yes."

I began to see past the dogma. I played volleyball with Wally and he would spike the ball over the net into my face with a smile. This wouldn't have been a very big deal except that I was taller than him and he was born without any hands or forearms. I started to see things in shades of gray. My own devotion to nothing being real unless it could be proven by science and their faith in Jesus and God were not concepts worth going to war over. We were people. We believed in different things. We were good people. Good people care about each other and we cared about people.

I believe, eye to eye
Say brothers, sister, see your brothers in the sky
Neighbour, neighbour, don't be so cold
It's so much glory from the story untold

There was a big bonfire on the top of a mountain we climbed the last night of summer camp. We were going to sleep out under the stars and return to camp to be picked up by our parents the next day. It was the last adventure and the only one that didn't make me nervous. I remember looking up at the night sky from my sleeping bag and thinking that perhaps anything was possible.

Years later, I tried to recapture that night when I was working as a counselor at the church day camp. There was a daily religious service inside the main building. I stayed outside and listened as I practiced with the volleyball. I was the only person outside in that little retreat by the lake. I hit the ball as hard as I could, trying to see how high into the sky I could get it. Then the kids and the adults and the other counselors came out of the building and Denny, who led the service, would smile at me and ask if he spoke loudly enough to be heard outside. I told him that he was loud enough. It was all he needed to hear.

Big fire, on top of the hill
A hopeless gesture, and last farewell
Tears from your mother, from the pits of her soul
Look at your father, see his blood run cold
Like the wind, you are free
Just a whisper - I hear you, so talk to me

When I was young I was very angry about people who believed in one "right way" of thinking about things. I was exposed to so much of it and came to believe that everyone was like that. I was tired of being told I was wrong and misguided. It was a big reason why I started dropping out of everything from church to after-school clubs. Denny changed all that for me. A minister who appreciated my lack of faith? Perhaps anything was possible.

I believe, eye to eye
Say brothers, sister, see your brothers in the sky
Neighbour, neighbour, don't be so cold
With so much glory from the story untold

There are many stories. There is not one single story on which all things rest. Denny Moon would talk to me about how so many people had different interpretations of the words of Jesus Christ. He believed I had my own interpretation. Denny knew I had spent more time reading The Holy Bible than any of my peers. He knew I had an inquisitive mind and that I wanted to understand. To him that was worth more than a room full of teenagers who accepted everything he told them.

I believe, eye to eye
Say brother, sisters, see your brothers in the sky
Neighbour, neighbour, don't be so cold
It's so much glory from the story untold


Lyrics borrowed without permission from Robert Plant
"I Believe" as recorded on the 1993 album Fate of Nations

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