New York Public Library Acquires Lou Reed Archive

Lou Reed

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center is acquiring East Hampton rock legend Lou Reed’s complete archive. Reed’s widow, artist Laurie Anderson, announced her donation last Thursday, March 2, which would have been Reed’s 75th birthday had he not died of cancer on October 27, 2013.

Described in depth in a New Yorker article published the day of Anderson’s announcement, the archive is the stuff of Reed fans’ dreams. Among the many items from Reed’s personal collection are around 300 hundred linear feet of paper records, electronic records and photographs; as well as some 3,600 audio recordings; and some 1,300 video recordings, and numerous artifacts from his life, The New Yorker reports. The materials go back to Reed’s high-school band, through his years with the Velvet Underground, hanging around Montauk’s Andy Warhol, all the way up to his final recordings in 2013.

A few standout items from the New Yorker’s account of the collection, include a Velvet Underground kaleidoscope, made by a fan, with pictures of the band inside and out; a “Florida Arrest” folder featuring the paperwork and info about Reed’s 1973 obscenity arrest; a tour rider specifying Reed’s preferred brand of Scotch; a letter of confirmation for the musician’s purchase of two Taoist priest sashes from the late Qing/early Minguo period; and 600 hours of audio no one has heard yet. Perhaps most exciting of all the items is a sealed package with a reel-to-reel tape Reed mailed to himself in 1965 (two years prior to The Velvet Underground & Nico), with the intent of copyrighting his recording. The tape is suspected to contain two early versions of Reed’s song “Heroin,” the song “Buzz Buzz Buzz,” and another tune he co-wrote with Velvet Underground bandmate John Cale.

Highlights from the collection will be on view at the New York Public Library for the next two weeks in both the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building and the Library for the Performing Arts. The celebration of this major acquisition and Reed’s 75th birthday, Celebrating Lou Reed: 1942–2013, will also include a reading of “The Raven” and Reed’s poetry at 6 p.m. on March 13 at the Library for the Performing Arts, Bruno Walter Auditorium; and on March 15, a performance of “Drones,” a composition featuring feedback from Reed’s guitars and amplifiers from 6–10 p.m. in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Celeste Bartos Forum.

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