Songs for Drella is a concept album by Lou Reed and John Cale, both formerly of the Velvet Underground, and is dedicated to the memory of Andy Warhol, their mentor, who had died unexpectedly in 1987. Drella was a nickname for Warhol coined by Warhol Superstar Ondine, a contraction of Dracula and Cinderella, used by Warhol’s crowd. The song cycle focuses on Warhol’s interpersonal relations and experiences, with songs falling roughly into three categories: Warhol’s first-person perspective (which makes up the vast majority of the album), third-person narratives chronicling events and affairs, and first-person commentaries on Warhol by Reed and Cale themselves. The songs on the album are, to some extent, in chronological order.
Lou Reed and John Cale spoke to one another for the first time in years at Warhol’s memorial service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on April 1, 1987. The painter Julian Schnabel suggested they write a memorial piece for Andy. On January 7 and 8, 1989, Cale and Reed performed an almost completed Songs for Drella at The Church of St. Anne’s in Brooklyn. Still, as Cale was wrapping up Words for the Dying, and Reed had finished and was touring with his New York album, the project took another year to complete. The first full version (notably with the inclusion of A Dream in one performance) was played on November 29–30, and December 2–3 at the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. On December 4–5, 1989, a live performance—without an audience—was filmed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, directed by Ed Lachman, and released on VHS and laser disc formats. Over the following two months, Reed and Cale proceeded to record the material for the album, which was released in 1990 by Sire Records.
The album was the pair’s first full collaborative record since 1968’s White Light/White Heat, and by the end of recording Cale vowed never to work with Reed again due to personal differences, hence plans to support the album with a tour were shelved. Nevertheless, Songs for Drella would prove to be the prelude to a Velvet Underground reunion: after playing a Drella selection on June 15, 1990, at a Warhol/Velvet Underground exhibition at the Cartier Foundation in Jouy-en-Josas, Reed and Cale were joined onstage by Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker for a rendition of the Velvet Underground song Heroin, which eventually led to the first and last Velvet Underground reunion, which took place in 1993 (after which Cale and Reed, again, vowed never to work with one another again).