• Connect With Us:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube

Lou Reed's Demos, Papers And Record Collection Soon To Be Public

Last Updated by Rick Karr on

Thursday would have been Lou Reed's 75th birthday. This morning, his widow, performance artist Laurie Anderson, marked the occasion by announcing that the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will house Reed's complete archives. The collection includes thousands of hours of video and audio recordings, Reed's personal record collection and more than 300 boxes of papers, photos and other items spanning his six-decade career.

There's a 1971 recording of Reed reading poetry. There's a bill from the legendary New York bar Max's Kansas City — Reed's tab stood at $194.08. There's also a birthday card of more recent vintage inscribed, "Dear Honey Bun, Love and Hugs, Mo" — as in Moe Tucker, The Velvet Underground's drummer. But NYPL curator Jonathan Hiam says it's the business and legal records that have him excited: The contracts, licensing agreements, tour receipts, and other documents paint a detailed picture of how the music industry evolved.

"These kinds of documents are usually in the hands of a private enterprise still, and there's usually no financial incentive to make them available to anybody," Hiam says. "So if you're doing research, this is really a boon."

Later this year, library staff will begin the process of digitizing the thousands of hours of video and audio recordings. Music producer and archivist Don Fleming, who has been supervising the restoration, says the process has turned up a few gems.

"One of the things they found was a tape from the early '60s, which seems to be Lou with one of his high school bands rehearsing for the variety show," Fleming says. "And just following that [clip] is Lou playing Bob Dylan songs."

Those recordings aren't available yet for legal reasons. But once the issues have been worked out, the recordings — and everything else in the archive — will be available to anyone who visits the library. Laurie Anderson says that's why she chose to put the archive there instead of a museum or academic institution.

"I really wanted it to not be deep in some vault where only people with white gloves can come. He was really democratic," Anderson explains.

Anderson says she hopes access to the archive will paint a more nuanced picture of Lou Reed than the tough guy in leather jacket and shades everyone knows.

"You realize everyone makes mistakes — everyone. Everyone loses their nerve — everyone. Everyone feels vulnerable and small. Take courage from that," she says. "And that's why I wanted this archive out: So everyone could see how hard it is to do that, and how determined he was."

The New York Public Library will be hosting Reed-related events over the next several weeks. The complete archive — including those early demo recordings — should be available to the public later this year.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Watch PBS Newshour:

newshour-logo-hires.pngMore News from PBSNewshour

News from PBS Newshour

Trump pullback from bipartisan health care fix gives Washington whiplash

Watch Video | Listen to the AudioHARI SREENIVASAN: Confusion reigns in Washington tonight over an effort to save the...

News Wrap: Sessions insists he didn’t lie about Russian contacts to Senate

Watch Video | Listen to the AudioHARI SREENIVASAN: In the days other news: Attorney General Jeff Sessions insisted...

Trump promised to give a grieving military father $25,000

Watch Video | Listen to the AudioHARI SREENIVASAN: Army Corporal Dillon Baldridge was killed in Afghanistan in June....

Xi Jinping celebrates China’s rising power — and his own

Watch Video | Listen to the AudioHARI SREENIVASAN: President Xi Jinping opened Chinas twice-per-decade Communist...

Rep. Gallego: Democrats are going to protect U.S. — and your paycheck

Watch Video | Listen to the AudioJUDY WOODRUFF: Now to our series of conversations on the future of the Democratic...

How did consoling Gold Star families become political?

Watch Video | Listen to the AudioHARI SREENIVASAN: We move from Congress to the controversies swirling around the...

The battle for Mosul is over, but this hidden ISIS danger could lurk for years

Watch Video | Listen to the AudioHARI SREENIVASAN: But first: The de facto capital of the Islamic State, Raqqa, in...

Escaping Harvey Weinstein was a ‘cat-and-mouse game,’ says Katherine Kendall

Watch Video | Listen to the AudioHARI SREENIVASAN: Lets turn to the continuing fallout and reaction to the Harvey...

Witnessing the collision of two neutron stars is a ‘textbook changer.’ Here’s why

Watch Video | Listen to the AudioHARI SREENIVASAN: Astrophysicists and astronomers all over the world are...

As Rohingya refugees continue to flee from persecution, here’s how you can help

A Rohingya refugee girl poses with a chicken at the Balukhali refugee camp near Coxs Bazar in Bangladesh. Photo by...

Why this Social Security boost is no boon for lower earners

Photo by Karen Roach/via Adobe Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller is here to provide the answers you need on...

This Japanese ‘hidden figure’ enlightened the world with her sunspot sketches

Hisako Koyama spent five decades inspecting the sun, especially sunspots. Sunspots are temporary dark spots that...

Read the draft of the bipartisan health care deal

The PBS NewsHour has obtained the draft language of the Senate bipartisan health care deal brokered by Sens. Lamar...

WATCH: White House says Trump contacts families of slain when authorized

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says President Donald Trump has made as much contact as possible...

All the sexual assault or harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, recapped

Film producer Harvey Weinstein attends the 2016 amfAR New York Gala at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. Photo by...