It’s not exactly news that Lou Reed was an asshole. But a new biography of the musician, who died in 2013, suggests that “asshole” may be too mild a description of what he was. A better word might be “monster.”
That’s the conclusion biographer Howard Sounes reluctantly came to after interviewing 140 of those who knew Reed best. Their recollections of Reed painted a picture of a bitter, angry, volatile man who spewed racist epithets and violently abused women.
The Daily Beast’s Nico Hines has the story:
“I loved his music, but you have to go where the story goes,” Sounes told The Daily Beast. “The obituaries were a bit too kind, he was really a very unpleasant man. A monster really; I think truly the word monster is applicable.”
The genius behind one of the greatest albums of the 1960s, was unstable, egotistical, misogynistic, violent, and selfish, according to some of those who knew him best.
The book — I haven’t read it yet — evidently paints a picture of Reed as a self-centered prick with an acid tongue, referring to Donna Summer as a “nigger” and lambasting Bob Dylan as a “pretentious kike.” In one autobiographical song, Hines notes, he mocked his sister’s husband as a Long Island nobody who “takes the train/ He’s big and he’s fat and he doesn’t even have a brain.”
Paul Morrissey, a prominent personality in the Andy Warhol crowd that Reed hung out with in the 1960s, told Sounes that the best title for a biography of Reed would be “The Worst Person Who Ever Lived. … He was a stupid, disgusting, awful human being.”
As badly as he treated men, Reed was apparently even worse to the women in life. As Hines writes,
Bettye Kronstad, who married Reed in 1973, described life on tour with the tempestuous rock star. “He would, like, pin you up against a wall,” she said. “Tussle you. Hit you… shake you… And then one time he actually gave me a black eye.”
Allan Hyman, an old school friend, said Reed had even been happy to strike a girlfriend while having dinner with him and his wife.
If someone is hitting his girlfriend in public, you can only imagine what goes on behind closed doors.
Reed was a brilliant, innovative musician and songwriter who wrote and performed some amazing songs. But he seems to have been shit as a human being. Somehow I doubt I’m going to go back to listen to any of those old Velvet Underground albums any time soon.
H/T — The Daily Beast