Lou Reed : A Life
by Anthony Decurtis

Overview - The 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 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.  Read more...

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More About Lou Reed by Anthony Decurtis
The 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 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.

  • ISBN-13: 9780316376556
  • ISBN-10: 0316376558
  • Publisher: Little Brown and Company
  • Publish Date: October 2017
  • Page Count: 528
  • Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.4 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.76 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Music
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Entertainment & Performing Arts
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Rich & Famous

BookPage Reviews

Paging through the lives of musical icons

Literature and music have always made a perfect pair. For those on your holiday shopping list who are equal parts bookworm and audiophile, look no further than our picks for the five biggest music books of the season.

Stevie Nicks has enjoyed quite the renaissance in recent years as a wave of millennials has embraced her witchy aesthetic in a big way. So it’s the perfect time for Stephen Davis to publish Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks, his detailed, albeit unauthorized, account of the songstress and her very public highs and lows. Beginning with her earliest performance with Fleetwood Mac in 1975—a wild, haunting rendition of “Rhiannon” that’s definitely worth a watch on YouTube—Davis paints a vivid and easily accessible portrait of Nicks’ life that’s bolstered by quotes from previously published interviews. From singing in Southwestern saloons with her grandfather at the age of 5 to her meteoric rise after joining Fleetwood Mac and, later, her quest to claim her artistic independence, Davis fills in some lesser-known details in the life of a staggeringly talented musician. Long live the age of Nicks!

(Roy Orbison in his Ford Thunderbird, May 1961, by Joe Horton.
Reprinted with permission from Hachette.)

“Remarkably, the story of our dad’s life has never been told. Not the real story, that is.” And so three of legendary songwriter Roy Orbison’s sons—Wesley, Roy Jr. and Alex Orbison—set out to write The Authorized Roy Orbison. Beginning with the rockabilly crooner’s unexpected comeback, which resulted in the star-studded concert film Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night, the authors then shift back to his humble beginnings in West Texas and follow him through a career that resulted in 22 chart-topping hits. A more authoritative look at Roy Orbison’s life isn’t likely to be found, as this volume contains a trove of hundreds of photos, personal documents and charming behind-the-scenes stories from those closest to him. This is a vital look at a unique trailblazer whose ripple effect is yet to be fully understood.

Bob Dylan may have won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2016, but a compelling argument could have been made for folk icon Joni Mitchell to take the prize. Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell is journalist David Yaffe’s exuberant biography of the talented Canadian singer-songwriter and painter. Yaffe’s straightforward chronicle of Mitchell’s prolific career is a superfan’s account of a woman he greatly admires, but it also illustrates how Mitchell became “the hero of her own life.” Although Yaffe was only able to interview Mitchell a few times, they clocked 12 hours of conversation each time, and plenty of Mitchell’s own asides and commentary are interspersed throughout. Although Reckless Daughter can sometimes feel a bit hurried and sticks to the surface level more than a dedicated fan might like (I could have read far more than two short chapters on her 1971 album and enduring masterpiece “Blue”), Yaffe illustrates just how influential and essential to the fabric of modern songwriting her work truly is. Mitchell’s lovers and male contemporaries—especially the aforementioned Dylan—are all too often at the forefront of musical histories. Mitchell explains that, before she came along, “songs for women were always doormat songs.” But thankfully, the Mitchell in Yaffe’s work is an imposing, resilient yet good-natured genius, treated with the reverence she deserves.

When it comes to hip-hop pioneers, Chuck D—a founding member of the politically charged group Public Enemy—should be one of the first names mentioned. Public Enemy exploded onto the scene in the mid-1980s and completely changed the cultural perception of the genre. In Chuck D Presents This Day in Rap and Hip-Hop History, he’s serious about providing a comprehensive account of the genre’s most important moments. He salutes the early “DJs who carried, transported, and played thick record crates full of wax,” kicking off his catalog with August 11, 1973, when DJ Kool Herc played the first hip-hop set in the Bronx. And from there, all of the biggest milestones in hip-hop are rolled out—from De La Soul’s debut release all the way to A Tribe Called Quest’s incredible comeback in 2016. Eclectic artwork from 10 visual artists makes this a perfect book to keep on display.

Lou Reed will be remembered as one of the most enigmatic figures in rock history. After joining Andy Warhol’s Velvet Underground in 1964, he captivated and challenged audiences with his genre-defying sound. Rolling Stone contributor and Grammy award-winning writer Anthony DeCurtis made the complicated decision to pen Lou Reed: A Life after Reed’s death in 2013, citing their unique working relationship as the catalyst behind this compelling look at Reed’s struggles and triumphs. This is quite a tome, and DeCurtis dives deep, providing details about every recording session and project Reed took on. DeCurtis admits that personal aspects Reed “would have loved to erase, are discussed here in detail,” and even though DeCurtis counted Reed as a friend, “this book does not present him the way he wanted to see himself . . . it presents him as he was. And, I believe, as he knew himself to be.” This will surely come to be the definitive biography of this larger-than-life artist.


This article was originally published in the November 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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