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Lou Reed was a violent monster who abused women, new bio claims

Lou Reed: Huge douchebag
Lou Reed: The Worst Person Who Ever Lived?

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

 

 

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decourse
decourse
4 years ago

Of course, Lou Reed’s mental illness and (by modern standards) barbaric “treatment” for it also has parallels with Roman Polanski. Yes, he committed rape on a minor. It was in the aftermath of his pregnant wife being killed by a serial-murdering cult, and it’s hard not to think that this may have had something to do with it.

In both cases, there’s no excuse, but perhaps it helps to understand.

Having said all that, I think that Amy Schumer’s sketch about Bill Cosby probably put it the best. If we try to excuse a great artist who did something terrible, it’s not really about the perpetrator or the victim, but about ourselves. If I like the work of someone who did something terrible, does that make me terrible?

It gets even more complicated in the case of someone like Richard Wagner.

Zeb Berryman
Zeb Berryman
4 years ago

On the subject of separating the art from the artist I’ve always felt a little mixed. If the artist is merely an asshole, but hasn’t done anything outright illegal I usually have no problem or at least very few problems. Generally I’m very quick to defend the idea of separating the artist from there work. On the other hand I refuse to buy any of Orson Scott Card’s books because I know that he donates the money to anti LGBTQ organizations (I wouldn’t mind getting one of his earlier books second hand.) I also tend to avoid Roman Polansky’s films and other abusers works. I dunno maybe that makes me a hypocrite, but that’s how I feel.

zoon echon logon
zoon echon logon
4 years ago

Allen Ginsberg is a member and supporter of NAMBLA, and generally a promoter of the idea that it’s ok for adult men to have sex with underage boys. Does this make “Howl” less good? Yes, yes it does.

raysa
raysa
4 years ago

Dhag85, you posted:

“I’ve been meaning to ask a bigger question about art with problematic aspects, by potentially horrible people. This might be a good thread for it, but I’m on my phone right now. Basically, I’m deeply dependent on modern Jamaican music, where the lyrics often contain violent imagery, sexism/misogyny, homophobia etc. I would like this to change, of course, but at the moment it’s so pervasive in this genre that it’s difficult or impossible to avoid if you’re involved in this scene.

I don’t particularly care for any other genre of music, and it’s not reasonable for me to believe I will stop listening to music altogether. But it does cause me some level of guilt, knowing that I implicitly support this culture by taking part in it. Sometimes I wonder what can be done.”

You bring up something that has been bothering me for a while.

I don’t have cable. I don’t watch tv, unless I am purposefully watching. I get endless dvds from our library consortium, and I find myself watching things that were on back when I did actually have cable a few years back.

I have recently discovered Supernatural. Words cannot describe how much I enjoy that show. There is an ass load of misogynistic themes in that show, and I recognize that. But there are also a lot of times where women are portrayed positively.

I have seen people comment that they can’t watch it because of the misogyny. So, does that make me a bad feminist? That I still watch it? And love it?

These ideas are everywhere, and deeply internalized. I just feel like if I stop watching shows based on how many times offensive ideas are conveyed, than I would never be able to watch anything.

I understand your point about the guilt. I have those thoughts, too. And I don’t have an answer, but I appreciate knowing that I am not the only one that feels this way.

Argenti Aertheri
Argenti Aertheri
4 years ago

How I avoid financially supporting questionable artists? *dons pirate hat* If you prefer the legal route, libraries, second hand stores, online streaming… eh, I’m not sure the legality on that one actually, youtube you’re fine, outside that idk. But yeah, when it comes to non-criminal bigots I tend to find that I refuse to offer any financial support, and will not recommend their works without that disclaimer, criminal level bigotry I’ve thankfully not found myself debating, I guess my love of very few musicians, and my TV viewing being Criminal Minds, Doctor Who, and documentaries plays in my favor?

Tangentially — Criminal Minds is no longer in need of another agent, the studio signed a black woman. So white men are now the minority if you count Penelope as part of the team (if you don’t, get out, now)… still a Reid fan though XD

Oliver
Oliver
4 years ago

I always preferred the Jimmy Smith jazz instrumental ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ to Lou Reed’s song a decade later anyway. (No idea what kind of person Jimmy Smith was though…)

Wetherby
Wetherby
4 years ago

Of course, Lou Reed’s mental illness and (by modern standards) barbaric “treatment” for it also has parallels with Roman Polanski. Yes, he committed rape on a minor. It was in the aftermath of his pregnant wife being killed by a serial-murdering cult, and it’s hard not to think that this may have had something to do with it.

There’s an eight-year gap between the two events (Sharon Tate was murdered in 1969, the rape* was committed in 1977). I seriously doubt that there was any meaningful connection.

I also seriously doubt that it was a one-off, given what we now know about what celebrities got up to in the 1970s in the wake of the Jimmy Savile revelations. Even at the time, the widespread assumption was that Polanski was far from unusual – he was merely the one who got caught.

(*the victim’s name is now well known, of course, especially since she wrote a book about the incident, but I see no reason to bring it up here.)

Catalpa
Catalpa
4 years ago

I’m curious, what are people’s opinions on creators of non-media work being awful? If the person who invented the internal combustion engine was racist, is it immoral to use a car, and any other locomotive-driven device? If the person who invented the transistor was homophobic, are you priviledging your convenience over LGBT rights when you use a computer?

I suppose people who create tools or inventions are easier to separate from their work because a piston engine, for example, is a device that is simply intended to convert energy into movement, while a piece of art is explicitly made in order to share a message. Unless a tool is designed specifically to be used for terrible things, there is no message contained within it. Pieces of media can influence our culture and the way we percieve the world and each other.

Also, we tend not to canonize inventors in society terribly much, at least not in the same way that we do celebrities. So there’s less of the “they made something I like and I am not a bad person so they cannot be a bad person either!” mindset around them.

Fortunately, I suppose, because the vast majority of technological advancement is built off of the previous technologies that came before it and thus essentially every object we use is likely to have been influenced somewhere along the way somehow by an awful person, be they rapists or abusers or bigots. Kind of depressing, to think of that.

justlikeheaven
justlikeheaven
4 years ago

Honestly I knew alot of stuff about this before hand. Reed was vile and frankly thats very disappointing to me. The VU changed my life as a young kid and I travel nearly everywhere to this day wearing a VU tshirt everywhere. Sadly most classic rock Icons were terrible people if you read up on them.

Andrewould
Andrewould
4 years ago

“Reed was a brilliant, innovative musician and songwriter who wrote and performed some amazing songs”

His music post Velvet Underground is generally shite.

Felix Ray
4 years ago

I read this article and I read the source cited, and nearly all of these anecdotes center on the 1970s, 35 years before Lou Reed’s death. Was he like this in later years? I think that matters a lot.

I NEED to have an opinion about abuse, and racism and domestic violence. As a human being, that’s my job, my responsibility.

I don’t need to have an opinion of a dead rock star as a human being, based on 40 year old anecdotes taken from an article taken from an article taken from the research of an author promoting an upcoming book, who got them from people the dead rock star knew four decades ago. It’s probably more accurate than the stories about Zoe Quinn’s sex life, but how much more? If I fail in my moral duty to judge Lou Reed as a monster, will his ghost be free to perform fresh atrocities? Magic 8 ball says “no”.

Viscaria
Viscaria
4 years ago

What a singularly unhelpful comment. Please feel free to not care about Lou Reed if you so wish. Nobody is stopping you. In fact, if you hadn’t said anything, many of us wouldn’t have known you exist.

All your comment has succeeded in doing is establishing that you believe abuse carries a moral statute of limitations, which is pretty vile.

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
4 years ago

Shut up, Felix.

Maude
2 years ago

I thought we were pretty clear on the fact that having a bad quality doesn’t make all your qualities bad.