Lou Reed’s dark world

The Dostoyevski of Rock

In Memoriam: Lou Reed, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed saw rock music as dark literature.

“Let’s take Crime and Punishment,” he once said, “and turn it into a rock and roll song.”

His heroes were writers — Dostoyevsky, Edgar Allan Poe, William S. Burroughs and Hubert Selby Jr., who wrote the explosive 1964 novel Last Exit to Brooklyn, about drug use, gang rape, homosexuality and domestic violence.

Lou Reed’s dark world
Lou Reed, in characteristic black, with pistol.

The book was the subject of an obscenity trial in the United Kingdom and was banned in Italy. The British jury trial lasted nine days and ended with a guilty verdict. The verdict was reversed later, but by then the novel had sold more than 500,000 copies in the United States.


Lou Reed was born in Brooklyn and knew whereof Selby wrote. He was sent to a psychiatric hospital for electro-convulsive therapy in an attempt to cure him of a general hostility to his parents and what they believed to be homosexual instincts.

After leaving the band in 1970 Lou Reed released 20 solo albums.



Unlike musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed’s approach to rendering the music was described as “bare-bones.”

“One chord is fine,” he said. “Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.”

A dark outlook overshadowed his life, as expressed in the black garb he and his Velvet Underground band members always wore, which was characterized as a “rejection of love-and-peace attitudes.”

Lou Reed’s dark world
Laurie Anderson was his companion for the last 20 years of his life.



Lou Reed finally found love and peace in the 20-year relationship he had with his third wife, composer Laurie Anderson. She was with him when he died of liver disease.

Laurie said his last days were peaceful, and described him as a “prince and a fighter.”

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