As lead singer and songwriter for the Velvet Underground and a renowned solo artist, Lou Reed invented alternative rock. His music, at once a source of transcendent beauty and coruscating noise, violated all definitions of genre while speaking to millions of fans and inspiring generations of musicians.
But while his iconic status may be fixed, the man himself was anything but. Lou Reed’s life was a transformer’s odyssey. Eternally restless and endlessly hungry for new experiences, Reed reinvented his persona, his sound, even his sexuality time and again. A man of contradictions and extremes, he was fiercely independent yet afraid of being alone, artistically fearless yet deeply paranoid, eager for commercial success yet disdainful of his own triumphs. Channeling his jagged energy and literary sensibility into classic songs – like “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Sweet Jane” – and radically experimental albums alike, Reed remained desperately true to his artistic vision, wherever it led him.
Now, just a few years after Reed’s death, Rolling Stone writer Anthony DeCurtis, who knew Reed and interviewed him extensively, tells the provocative story of his complex and chameleonic life. With unparalleled access to dozens of Reed’s friends, family, and collaborators, DeCurtis tracks Reed’s five-decade career through the accounts of those who knew him and through Reed’s most revealing testimony, his music. We travel deep into his defiantly subterranean world, enter the studio as the Velvet Underground record their groundbreaking work, and revel in Reed’s relationships with such legendary figures as Andy Warhol, David Bowie, and Laurie Anderson. Gritty, intimate, and unflinching, Lou Reed is an illuminating tribute to one of the most incendiary artists of our time.
Lou Reed (with guitar) at his high school talent show, March 1959, along with (from left) Richard Sigal, Judy Titus and Johnny DeKam (Courtesy of Richard Sigal)
Reed's senior year high school yearbook photo, inscribed to his friend Richard Sigal. Reed "naturally" likes girls, and intends to "take life as it comes." (Courtesy of Richard Sigal)
The Velvet Underground perform at the Trip in Los Angeles in 1966. Said Cher, an attendee: the Velvets "will replace nothing, except maybe suicide." (© Lisa Law)
Nico and Reed rehearse outdoors in Los Angeles, 1966. (© Lisa Law)
Did we miss the Summer of Love?: (from left) Tucker, Morrison, Yule, Reed in unlikely psychedelic garb, 1970. (Consolidated Image Foundation / Cache Agency)
Reed comes up from underground, backed by the Tots at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, January 1973. (Steven Rossini / Frank White Photo Agency)
Bettye Kronstad and Reed at the party following Reed's Alice Tully Hall performances, January 1973. (Photo by Anton Perich)
The Phantom of Rock on stage in Amsterdam, Holland, September 1973. (Laurens Van Houten / Frank White Photo Agency)
Reed and Robert Quine lock in and roar at the Beacon Theatre, New York City, October 18, 1984. (© Ebet Roberts)
Laurie Anderson and Reed at Josie's, New York City, March 1996. (© Ebet Roberts)