Nobody really expects rock musicians to be nice people. The Velvet Underground front man Lou Reed, however, was more than an asshole. According to a recent biography written by Howard Sounes, he was some kind of monster.
Sounes doesn’t use the word lightly. After Reed’s death in 2013, Sounes, who was a huge fan, set out to write a glowing biography, for which he interviewed more than 140 people — and every single one of those interviews broke off another little piece of Sounes’ heart. Though he wanted to be as kind as possible to his musical hero, Sounes was forced “to go where the story goes.” And here’s where the story went: Reed was apparently a violent, racist, misogynistic piece of shit. It’s known that he once told a journalist, “I don’t like niggers like Donna Summer” (and that should have been kind of a red flag right there), but according to those who knew him, he wore his racism on his sleeve. At one point, he referred to Bob Dylan as a “pretentious kike.” Yes, the guy who once released an hour of guitar feedback called someone else “pretentious.”
Reed’s relationships with women were more violent than a mosh pit. His ex-wife Bettye Kronstad told Sounes that Reed would occasionally get mad and pin her against a wall, shake her, hit her, and “then one time he actually gave me a black eye.” She wasn’t the only one. According to one of his childhood friends, Reed would often beat his girlfriends in public when they said something that displeased him. When the wife of the (presumably former) friend said something about it, Reed started hitting her too. Because Reed was an equal opportunity misogynist.
When Sounes approached filmmaker Paul Morrissey for an interview, Morrissey suggested for the book that “You need a good title like The Hateful Bitch [or] The Worst Person Who Ever Lived. Something that says this isn’t a biography of a great human being, because he was not … He was a stupid, disgusting, awful human being.” As Sounes recounted, “The word that kept coming up was prick. Girlfriends called him a prick, people he was at school with called him a prick; people in his band called him a prick.”
But man, wasn’t White Light / White Heat a great album?
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