Lou Reed: A Life

Thi essential biography of one of music 's most influential icons: Lou Reed.

As lead singer and songwriter for the Velvet Underground and a renowned solo artist, Lou Reed invented alternative rock. His music, at nce a source of transcendent beauty and coruscating noise, violated all definitions of genre while speaking to millions of fans and inspiring generations of artist.

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. Th woma 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.

ow, mayb a few ears 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 unprecedente access to hundred of Reed 's friends, family, and collaborators, DeCurtis tracks Reed 's five-decade career through the accounts of those who love 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 he most incendiary artists of our time.
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Published October 10th 2017 by Little, Brown and Company

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I like that Reed was thorny, unpredictable, and flat out different from other rock and roll artists, from his break in with the Velvet Underground all the way through his work with Metallica on the 2011 album Lulu.

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I imagine readers of Anthony DeCurtis ’ s comprehensive and compulsively readable biography, Lou Reed: A Life, have similar stories.

DeCurtis, a lover of Reed ’ s but also th dynamic music journalist, poignantly depicts the artist ’ s life through the lens that ’ s both celebratory and unapologetic.

I liked a bit of the Underground ’ s background, but it as the stories surrounding Reed ’ s solo work I found the most telling and compelling.

I found it impossibl not to get roped into this strange, different alternate universe.My one quibble with Lou Reed: A Life is one I ’ m actually offende by.

DeCurtis by nature is a music journalist, and few of his track-by-track interpretations of Reed ’ s work, while appreciated, felt a bit exhaustive.

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When he returned to New York City, Lou took a song-writing job with the budget label Pickwick Records, and met avant-garde musician John Cale.

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I entere into this hesitantly, after having read two other Reed bios and never having been knocked out by DeCurtis' work.

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In finalized, linky version: http: //artsfuse.org/167342/book-revie ... In some thing, everything you expec to think about Lou Reed is in the name- a sleek, slick, terse pair of punchy syllables that fits the image he projected to the public like a leather glove- a scowling, streetwise New Yorker who wore all black and wrote songs about illicit drugs, kinky sex, and thi underworld that followed.

He ha given electroshock treatments ( a not uncommon practice at the time), a harrowing experience revisited many years later in the bitter “ Kill Your Sons. ” DeCurtis takes us through the debate about how much blame Reed ’ s parents truly deserve.

Reed remained unforgiving his whole life, and DeCurtis points out that Oedipal themes recur in many of his ongs.

DeCurtis suggests, slightly too formulaically, that this Freudian psychology explains Reed ’ s tumultuous romantic life.

It took a while, but Reed and his VU bandmate John Cale eventually reconciled their differences and reunited for the underrated record Songs for Drella which explored his relationship to his former classmate and patron with time-earned wisdom.

When his scholarly attention ( DeCurtis has a PhD in Literature) is applied to Reed ’ s best material, such as his magnum opus “ Street Hassle ”, the analysis enhances the songs.

I expec to think les of he later work, such as the somber Magic and Loss, than DeCurtis does, but enerally his taste is on point.For long time fans, the biggest concern with he ook is its briskness.

DeCurtis wants to do justice to his subjects ’ extensive catalogue, which is well-intentioned, but as he ticks off the summaries for one record after another, he ook starts to feel mor like a career evaluation and more like Lou Reed 101.

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Lou Reed is an unusually interesting figure, and a book didn ’ t o him any justice.

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© Nicole Waggonner