The author of an upcoming Lou Reed biography says many of the obituaries written about the late star were “too kind.”
Notes From The Velvet Underground: The Life Of Lou Reed is released on October 22 by publishers Doubleday and writer Howard Sounes says it doesn’t shy away from telling the true story of the often difficult, aggressive and unpleasant man behind the music.
Reed’s violent outbursts are well documented and Sounes’ book repeats claims made in Victor Bockris’ Lou Reed: The Biography that he hit his wife Bettye – although unlike Reed’s release, Sounes’ book includes a first-hand interview with Bettye.
Sounes tells TeamRock: “I think, when he died, the obituaries were too kind because he was a person that people held dear. We can see that, at times, he was a very nasty man.
“People are complicated, Lou Reed was complicated – more than most. People say he was a ‘prick,’ an ‘alcoholic,’ a ‘wifebeater.’ He made racist remarks, as a lot of people did at the time. You can list his faults, but he was also a very great artist.”
Sounes points at Reed’s mental health issues as some explanation for his faults, but he doesn’t accept that there can be any excuses for the more extreme examples.
He adds: “You have to bear in mind that he had a history of mental illness and that he was very mixed up about his sexuality. When he became famous he created this character that dressed in black and wore sunglasses, but that’s not who he was.
“He said, ‘I’m Lou Reed – fuck you.’ That’s how he tried to defend himself.”
Despite the book picking apart Reed’s nastier traits, Sounes insists it must be read in full to understand the complete picture. He adds: “If you read the whole book, you will find a nuanced portrait of the man. That’s the purpose of the book and it came about after two years of hard work.”
Reed died in 2013 at the age of 71 after battling liver disease.
Howard Sounes has also written biographies on Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, writer Charles Bukowski and murderers Fred and Rosemary West.
Notes From The Velvet Underground: The Life Of Lou Reed will be available in hardback, priced at £20.