The death on February 14, 2017 of Stanley Bard, who ran the Chelsea Hotel for 43 years until 2007, prompted memories of some of the classic music created, or inspired, by the famous New York landmark, also known as the Hotel Chelsea.
Bard died from a stroke at the age of 82, but had long since left his imprint on one of the most famously bohemian spots on the map of Manhattan. The hotel was already known as a bohemian bolthole, with Mark Twain and Thomas Wolfe among its former residents, when Bard — born in the Bronx in 1934 — took over the running of the establishment on West 23rd Street in 1964.
Under Bard’s watchful eye, the Victorian Gothic building’s residents included such notable music figureheads as Bob Dylan, who wrote “Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands” there; Madonna, who lived there, pre-fame, in the early 1980s; and the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Cher, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. The Canadian singer-songwriter’s “Chelsea Hotel #2” was inspired by his time there, and later covered by Rufus Wainwright, on the soundtrack of the 2005 film about Cohen’s life and work, I’m Your Man.
Nico’s “Chelsea Girls,” the title song from her 1967 debut album, was written by the Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison. It was composed in reference to Andy Warhol’s experimental film of the same name the year before, which focused on the residents of the dwelling when Warhol was running his studio, The Factory.
Infamously, the hotel was where Sid Vicious’ girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, was found stabbed to death in 1978. Vicious was charged with her murder, but died of a drug overdose while on bail. Songs directly inspired by the address included Graham Nash’s “The Chelsea Hotel,” Jefferson Airplane’s “Third Week In The Chelsea’ and Dan Bern’s “Chelsea Hotel.”
That’s before you even add the distinguished figures in other artistic circles who made it their home at one time or another, from Arthur C. Clarke (who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey there) to Arthur Miller, and from Jane Fonda to Stanley Kubrick. The walls of the Chelsea Hotel could tell such stories.