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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.
"DeCurtis has given us a thorough and vivid portrait of an artist who, he shows us, was even darker than we knew."―The New York Review of Books
"Anthony DeCurtis was one of the few music critics Lou Reed read and whose company he enjoyed. After reading this sublime and subtle book, the mystery of Lou's respect for Anthony is revealed. Anthony is a great story teller, a writer's writer, turning pain into beauty the way Lou did in his songs."― Bono
"I am personally familiar with the depth, seriousness and sensitivity of Anthony DeCurtis's writing, and, of course, knew Lou Reed and felt the impact of his coruscating work. A brilliant artist has found a biographer with the insight to, as Lou said, "pass through fire" and be a definitive interpreter of both his music and his life."―Sting
"Lou Reed is Lou Reed!" ― Iggy Pop
"An eloquent account of a harrowing life transformed by love in the end. Anthony DeCurtis does a brilliant job of synthesizing the disparate parts of Lou Reed's life into an insightful, moving narrative. I highly recommend it."―Suzanne Vega
"When most people think of Lou Reed, they picture the black, rotting heart of rock and roll, full of dissonance, decadence and decay. But as Anthony DeCurtis makes clear in his new book, behind the image and the rumors, Lou was one thing: a writer, a man who spent his life telling the absolute, painful truth in his songs - the truth about himself, the scenes he observed, and the world at large. His words were so powerful that the Velvet Underground had to invent a new musical language to match them. I'm not the first musician to pledge allegiance to Lou and the Velvets, and I won't be the last. Read this book, and explore the f*cking genius that was Lou Reed."―Peter Buck, co-founder and lead guitarist of R.E.M.
"Anthony DeCurtis captures the soul and the essence of Lou Reed in his terrific new biography of the brilliant, culture-shaping musician. DeCurtis' great gift of storytelling gives fascinating insight and perspective to Reed's complex personality and cutting-edge musical talent. This is a must read."― Clive Davis
"The Reed of DeCurtis' exhaustively reported book is a brilliant artist who helped define hipness and the outer limits of rock for generations."―Rolling Stone
"How did a middle-class suburban boy grow up to be king of Manhattan's wild side? Thanks to this groundbreaking biography, now we know. Anthony DeCurtis handles Reed's often-misunderstood bisexuality and curiosity about transsexualism with particular sensitivity, candor, and sophistication. A must-read for fans of rock and roll, New York City, or sex."―Ada Calhoun, author of St.Marks Is Dead
"DeCurtis' biography makes a case for Reed's influence that's as durable as black leather."―San Francisco Chronicle
"Lou Reed was one of music's most brilliant and complicated figures-an explorer, a provocateur, and always a true artist. With grace and grit, Anthony DeCurtis has delivered a revelatory and insightful chronicle of this most challenging rock & roll icon, and Lou Reed gets the biographer he deserves."― Alan Light, author of The Holy or the Broken
"A fascinating portrait. The unsurpassed voice of New York has found a worthy biographer."― Philip Norman, New York TimesBestselling author of Paul McCartney andJohn Lennon
"Focusing on the music as much as the singer's often dissolute lifestyle and controversial opinions, the author makes a good case for Reed's lasting significance. ... A well-written, valuable document of a major figure in the American rock scene, putting a human face on a man who often seemed impossibly remote. Essential reading for Reed fans and strongly recommended for anyone interested in rock as art."―Kirkus (Starred Review)
"Even though he counted Reed among his friends in the music business, DeCurtis pulls no punches; for example, he talks about Reed's early sexual promiscuity in highly critical terms and is equally frank in discussing Reed's drug and alcohol abuse. This is a rough-edged, straight-talking biography of a man who became a legend as much for his offstage life as for his musical skills."―Booklist
"Among the first ambitious posthumous biographies of the sexually fluid queer icon, who died in 2013 at the age of 71. DeCurtis strives to take Reed's deep flaws into account along with his transgressive genius."―W Magazine
"An absorbing read, full of new insights delivered masterfully by DeCurtis."―Pitchfork
"A Life is comprehensive and sympathetic... For Mr. DeCurtis, Reed's biographical Rosebud was homosexual shame deriving from his upbringing. In the end, he didn't want to be the first gay rock star."―Wall Street Journal --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
About the Author
DeCurtis is a Grammy Award winner and has served as a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee for twenty-five years.He holds a PhD in American literature and lives in New York City. --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
- ASIN : B01N193CYU
- Publisher : Little, Brown and Company; Large Print edition (October 10, 2017)
- Publication date : October 10, 2017
- Language : English
- File size : 70158 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 508 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #508,687 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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"Lou Reed: A Life," is a masterpiece of biographical writing. Anthony DeCurtis, longtime writer and editor at Rolling Stone and a music critic with a connection to Reed in life, lays out the highs and lows of Reed's career, the various partners and drugs that entered and exited his life, and the belated but deserved recognition that the Velvet Underground and Reed's solo work received from the gatekeepers of popular culture. It's a tempered warts-and-all portrait, at once a loving appreciation and an honest appraisal of what Reed did in terms of his music and his life.
A child of New York and Long Island, Reed became the symbol of decadence first as the frontman for the Velvets and then on his own, through a solo career of many highs and lows. Recognition never eluded him, but chart success did; besides the punch of 1972's "Transformer," Reed rarely had a song or album in the top of the charts. No matter; as a cult artist, he became an inspiration to countless other bands and artists that followed. Without Lou Reed, we wouldn't have had David Bowie, Joy Division, Suzanne Vega, R.E.M., and so many more. Reed's influence, both as a solo artist and with the VU, is immeasurable.
His life was chaotic at times; it's not for nothing that both Reed and Keith Richards were the poster boys for "too drugged up to survive" the Seventies (though each did, in fact, survive, long after peers with supposedly stronger constitutions perished). His sexuality was always at the forefront of his art; Reed lived openly with a transgender woman in the 1970s, when such things weren't done, and he forever seemed willing to push the boundaries of what constituted "sexuality" in his life and his art. Though he settled down eventually (first with his second wife Sylvia, and then with Laurie Anderson), Reed never lost his edge.
Anyone who loves Lou Reed as an artist probably knows this already, but: he could be quite unpleasant at times. DeCurtis doesn't paper over the times when Reed was rude for the sake of being rude, but he brings an understanding to it that is needed. If you accept the notion that Reed was playing "Lou Reed," a character that kept the media at bay for the sake of his own sanity, then it makes sense. At some point, the role became reality. But in the end, Reed was much more than a quote given in anger to a pushy journalist.
"Lou Reed: A Life" is perfect for the Velvets fan and the lover of Reed's solo work (and of course, for the person who appreciates both). As Reed himself once put it, between thought and expression lies a lifetime. That lifetime is explored here, and it's a masterpiece.
Top reviews from other countries
I am not trying to say that you will learn lots of unknown secrets however you will definitely not feel like you are reading a gossip rag that is big on headlines and loose on facts due to DeCurtis including lots input from people who involved in the key parts of Lou's life.
I highly recommend this Biography over many of the others that are out there.
Never dull never over hyped totally believable thoroughly entertaining. If you like Reed you will love this book. If you don't like Reed...why not?