Women in Music 2016

Lou Reed Had Long History of Violence Against Women, Says Biographer

Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns
Lou Reed photographed in Amsterdam circa 1972.

Lou Reed was well known for his prickly personality, but new insights from his unofficial biographer Howard Sounes suggest that his flaws ran considerably deeper than the occasionally ill-advised comment. 

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“He would, like, pin you up against a wall,” Reed's first wife Bettye Kronstad told Sounes, who's previously written biographies of Bob Dylan and Charles Bukowski. “Tussle you. Hit you...shake you...and then one time he actually gave me a black eye.”

Reed, who often sang in explicit terms about violence against women, always insisted that his lyrics were rooted in fiction -- but Sounes insists that after interviewing more than 140 sources on the legendary musician for his new biography Notes From The Velvet Underground (including school friends, bandmates, girlfriends, and family members), he's found there's more truth to them than Reed ever admitted.

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Allan Hyman for example, who is described as "an old school friend" of Reed's, recalls a group dinner with the artist and a former girlfriend. "She would say something," he told Sounes. "He’d get pissed off at what she said and smash her around the back of the head. [My wife said,] 'Lou, if you continue to hit her, you have to leave.' And then he smacks her in the back of the head. So she said, 'Get out!'"

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Sounes details a number of other unsavory incidents involving Reed in a new interview with The Daily Beast, but most can be summed up by the idea that, at least according to his research, Reed was an unpleasant person. "The word that kept coming up was prick," Sounes concludes. "Girlfriends called him a prick, people he was at school with called him a prick; people in his band called him a prick."