Waiting for the Man: The Life and Music of Lou Reed

Jeremy Reed. Overlook, $27.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4683-1067-2
This post-mortem revision of a 1994 biography of rock-and-roll's most cantankerous, complicated icon is not for the casual fan. Author Reed, an English poet and critic not related to his famously disdainful subject, is deeply steeped in the work, words, and thorny personality of the literary rocker, a sexual outlaw who turned "urban dirt into gold" through complex and disturbing lyrics and an insistent, metric, driving style of guitar playing. As Reed founded the Velvet Underground, a creation of Andy Warhol's Factory scene in the mid-1960s, he struggled with drug addiction, his homosexuality, and an unhappy legacy of parents who sent him for electroshock therapy to "cure" him. The author is sympathetic, but his frequent scholarly elevations cast some passages like academic papers on queer studies and literary theory, disappointing readers seeking gossip or anecdotes from a rock and roll life lived on the edge of death for several dire decades. Reed's complex relationships with three wives and a longtime same-sex partner are addressed forthrightly, as is his aggressive gay persona, which he embraced after leaving the Velvet and launching a solo career whose output veered from magnificent ("Coney Island Baby," "New York," "Rock ‘n' Roll Animal") to the unlistenable ("Metal Machine Music"). This updated edition addresses Reed's life and work from the early '90s until his death of liver failure in 2013, decades marked by acclaimed work such as "Magic and Loss" and less well received efforts like "The Raven." The author uses this work to bolster his belief that even when Reed's best work lived up to his literary expectations, his "intelligent theory was often more interesting than the actual lyric." (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/23/2015
Release date: 02/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Discover what to read next