Strange life of a doomed groupie


A German model known as Nico who was nearly six feet tall and had the baritone voice of a man bedded some of the biggest rock and movie stars of the 1960s.

“She acquired the reputation of a gothic Garbo or punk Dietrich, by turns mysterious and aloof,” writes Ian Thompson in The Guardian.

Nico had affairs and serious relationships with Lou Reed, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Iggy Pop, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Andy Warhol, and French film star Alain Delon. She also is said to have had lesbian affairs with French actress Jeanne Moreau and fashion icon Coco Chanel.

After a glamorous, weird, heroin-addicted life, Nico died relatively unknown in 1988 after falling off a bicycle and hitting her head. She was 49.Nico bedded rock stars

Her story has been told in a new book ‘You Are Beautiful And You Are Alone: The Biography Of Nico’ by Jennifer Otter Bickerdike.

She was born Christa Päffgen in Cologne in 1938. Her father was killed in the war when she was four. The little girl and her mother struggled to survive in a small flat in Berlin as bombs exploded all around them.

In 1954 at the age of 16 she changed her name to Nico and moved to Paris to become a fashion model, appearing in such glossy mags as Vogue.

When she was 21 she met the Italian film director Federico Fellini who gave her a cameo role in his film ‘La Dolce Vita.’ Other small roles followed, during which Nico had affairs with Alain Delon, and a relationship with Jeanne Moreau.

In New York she hung out with Andy Warhol, who produced the debut album of Lou Reed’s band The Velvet Underground and worked her into the album as the lead vocalists on three tracks.

Nico bedded rock stars
Nico and Lou Reed

The album, ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico,’ was panned by critics because of its lurid lyrics on sadomasochism and drug abuse, but in later years it was regarded as one of the most influential rock albums ever.

Nico’s 1968 solo album ‘The Marble Index’ was praised for its “doom-laden, Germanic atmospherics and dirge-like harmonium playing.”

Nico spent the last years of her life in squalid flats in London and Manchester, venturing outside in a long black cape and biker boots.

“Her days were often spent in bed, shooting up, or trying to score drugs,” writes the book’s author, as reported by Tom Leonard in the Daily Mail.

Her death was as offbeat as her life. While on vacation on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, she fell off her bike and hit her head, and died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Her life was characterized by doom and gloom. A friend once described living in Nico’s house as like “living in a funeral parlour.”

Nico bedded rock stars

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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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