Lewis Allen Reed was born at Beth El Hospital in Brooklyn, New York on March 2, 1942. (The very same day, as fate would have it, as my beloved mother. Hi Mom!) His father, Sidney, was an accountant and his mother, Toby, a homemaker (in the parlance of their times). He had a younger sister and grew up in Brooklyn and Freeport, Long Island.
And so much for background. If you’re like me, when you sit down to read the biography of a musician, you endure all the childhood stuff because you have to. What you really want is to get to the good stuff: the music. We’ll fill in some details as we go along, but the next post (the real first one after this throat-clearing exercise) will begin with Lou’s first recorded song, “Leave Her for Me.”
About the name of this blog: It is taken from the song “Some Kinda Love,” recorded by the Velvet Underground in 1969. It is apt, I think, because I cannot separate my love of Lou Reed’s work with a certain fondness for him as a person — even though he was guilty of some terrible things, especially in regard to his treatment of women.
In general, I don’t believe that bad behavior should cause a person to be retroactively eliminated from reality. Consider, for example, Ike Turner. Everyone knows that he was a bastard, but if you erase him from the record, you end up with some confusing Ike-shaped holes in the history of music. Certain things just wouldn’t have happened without him.
Lou Reed was a complicated man who went to extremes in his life and his work. He could be kind and generous, he could be cold-hearted and abusive. On the one hand he didn’t care what anyone thought of him, on the other hand he sometimes went out of his way to make himself look like an asshole. He is a fascinating case study of a human being capable of the full gamut of emotions, good and evil behavior, and artistic successes and failures.
In the course of writing this I will often call him “Lou,” as if he were a friend of mine, and in engaging with a subject this deeply it’s hard not to feel an intimacy. But I don’t necessarily wish to argue for or against his “goodness” as a person, whatever that means. My intention is to tell the truth to the best of my ability. But do I believe that someone who created as much beauty in his life as Lou Reed did deserves some amount of credit for it? Yes. Yes, I do.
Let us now kiss the culprit.