Lou Reed The King of New York

Will Hermes

Book - 2023

"The most complete and penetrating biography of the rock master Lou Reed, whose stature grows every year"--

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Subjects
Genres
Biographies
Published
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2023.
Language
English
Main Author
Will Hermes (author)
Edition
First edition
Physical Description
xxvi, 529 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 445-497) and index.
ISBN
9780374193393
  • Preface
  • Notes on Process, Myth Parsing, and Pronouns
  • Introduction
  • 1. Brooklyn > Long Island > The Bronx
  • 2. Long Island > Upstate
  • 3. Long Island > Queens (Commuting) > Lower East Side
  • 4. Lower East Side
  • 5. Lower East Side > Upper East Side > Los Angeles > Boston
  • 6. NYC > San Francisco > Max's Kansas City > Long Island
  • 7. Long Island > London > Upper East Side
  • 8. Upper East Side > West Village
  • 9. New Jersey > Upper West Side
  • 10. Upper West Side > West Village
  • 11. West Village > Long Island
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

A Long Islander by birth and upbringing, Lou Reed became famous in Manhattan. In fact, to many people, Lou Reed was New York. Reed was known for many things--his coolness, his random cruelty, his very Lou Reedness--and for avoiding the media. As Rolling Stone contributor Hermes notes, Reed loathed press interviews. He felt his work should speak for itself. Most of all, Reed "wanted to control his own narrative." Still, previous biographers accepted the challenge, and now Hermes, a superb writer, does poetic justice to the complicated life of his difficult subject. As Hermes details, a raft of current singers claim debt to Reed, from Courtney Barnett and St. Vincent to Sharon Van Etten and Kurt Vile, as well as creatives in television, art, and fashion. Hermes offers a fresh and deep immersion in Reed's world in all of its weird and wonderful, curmudgeonly glory, from Andy Warhol's Factory and the Velvet Underground to days and nights of rock 'n' roll decadence and his final moments surrounded by family and friends. Reed was influenced by many people over the years, including Delmore Schwartz and Bob Dylan, but none more so than his third wife, multimedia artist Laurie Anderson, who is a big part of this powerful story, this biographical magnum opus.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this magisterial account, Rolling Stone senior critic Hermes (Love Goes to Buildings on Fire) delves into the mind and music of the Velvet Underground's front man. Growing up on Long Island in the 1940s and '50s, Reed "fell in love with rock 'n' roll and New York City doo-wop" early on (he recorded his first single in the latter style in high school). After graduating from college, Reed joined with John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Angus MacLise to form the Velvet Underground in 1965. He left five years later to start a solo career. Though the band skirted fame in its brief run, it exerted outsize influence on punk and "alternative/college rock" of the 1980s, according to Hermes, who puts Reed's legacy as both a rocker and lyricist front and center. Contending that his jubject's "guiding-light idea" was to "take rock 'n' roll, the pop format, and make it for adults," Hermes notes that even Reed's early songs dealt with "buying and using drugs, the psychology of addiction... intimate-partner violence, BDSM relationships" at a time when discussing such topics in music was rare. Throughout, Hermes weaves in small, resonant details that make achingly plain the fragile, complicated psyche beneath Reed's too-cool persona. At one point, a friend recalls seeing Reed after he underwent electroconvulsive therapy at 18, possibly as a treatment for depression: "He seemed the same... a little more shaky than usual. And he had a little quiver in his voice sometimes." This stands as the definitive biography of one of rock's most enigmatic personalities. (Oct.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

The mercurial life and career of the singularly talented rock artist Lou Reed (1942-2013). In the decade following his death, Reed's legacy has generated considerable attention, fueling further interest and debate about this legendary performer's artistic stature. In addition to Anthony DeCurtis' recent biography, Todd Haynes' acclaimed 2021 documentary on the Velvet Underground introduced Reed to younger audiences. Rolling Stone contributor Hermes, author of Love Goes to Buildings on Fire, covers a good amount of familiar territory. He traces Reed's early writing and musical roots, from his performing in high school bands on Long Island to studying poetry at Syracuse with early mentor Delmore Schwartz to his formation of the Velvet Underground in 1965 with John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Angus MacLise. With Reed serving as the band's principal songwriter, singer, and guitarist, they caught the attention of Andy Warhol, who for two years would become their manager. Reed quit the band in 1970 and launched a successful solo career, continuing for several decades. Hermes shrewdly probes Reed's complex personal and professional life and his frequently erratic behavior; his struggles with mental illness and depression; drug and alcohol abuse; intimate relationships with women and men and his self-identifying queer or nonbinary sexuality; partnerships with David Bowie, Warhol, and Laurie Anderson; and his influence on performers including Patti Smith and the Talking Heads. The author interviewed many of Reed's closest friends and relations and, unlike previous biographers, accessed the New York Public Library's recently acquired Reed archives. Hermes' strength is in identifying and articulating the transformational brilliance of Reed's songwriting and performances within the context of the 1960s and '70s music scene. Reverent about his artistry, he's also discerningly cognizant of Reed's temperamental shortcomings. "Tales of his rudeness were legion," writes the author, and he had "a privileged celebrity's sense of entitlement. Reed craved the freedom of anonymity, but still wanted his perks." An engrossing, fully dimensional portrait of an influential yet elusive performer. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.