“Only Lou Reed could have written those Lou Reed songs,” a friend of mine, who knew Reed, observed when the musician died, in 2013. That would appear self-evident, but there was a deeper truth to the observation. In his writing for the Velvet Underground and as a solo artist, Reed—who would have turned 79 this week—was sui generis.

You might think that the work of a songwriter with such a singular, personal voice, however influential, would be resistant to countless interpretations. And yet, this week’s playlist—Lou Reed songs recorded by people who are not Lou Reed—is just the tip of the iceberg. Bonus: scattered throughout (spot ’em!) are a half-dozen ringers, homages that, maybe, could have been Reed songs. Or, come to think of it, not really. After all, “only Lou … ”

George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL