Musician Lou Reed, who died in 2013, would have been 75 years old on March 2. In honor of the iconic singer of the Velvet Underground (for a time managed by Andy Warhol), the New York Public Library announced the acquisition of Reed’s personal archive.
Documenting Reed’s life as a musician, writer, composer, poet, and photographer, the archive includes 3,600 audio and 1,300 video recordings, as well as photographs, paper and electronic records, poster art, and gifts from fans. From the Shades, Reed’s band at Freeport High School in 1958, to his early career as a music label songwriter, his years with the Velvet Underground (he was primarily active between 1964 and 1973), and his five-decade solo career, the archive is exhaustive.
“The archive is a panoramic picture of Lou’s music, pictures, friendships, writing, tai chi, and performances as well as a recreation of the scenes and cities he worked in and loved,” said avant-garde artist Laurie Anderson, Reed’s widow, in a statement. “What better place to have this than in the heart of the city he loved the best?”
To mark the acquisition of the archive, the library is kicking off a two-week celebration of Reed’s life and career, playing his music hourly at the cafe at the Library for Performing Arts and presenting an exhibition of highlights from the archive both there and at the Stephen A. Schwarzman building, the library’s main branch at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street.
Jacqueline Z. Davis, executive director of the Library for the Performing Arts, called Reed a “singular talent, and an icon of New York’s music scene,” in a statement, noting that “his papers and recordings will not only complement and greatly expand our offerings, but also open new opportunities for researchers, students, and music lovers to enjoy and learn from his life and work.”
Reed was also honored at last night’s Anthology Film Archives gala in New York, where his close friend, legendary musician Patti Smith, told the crowd that Anderson had asked her to sing a song in Reed’s memory. A moving performance of the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” brought the crowd, which included musician and artist Michael Stipe, painter Julian Schnabel, artist and director John Waters, and actor Steve Buscemi to their feet.
Anderson enlisted archivist Don Fleming to oversee the library’s acquisition of the archive, which has been cataloged in detail by Reed’s archivists, Jason Stern and Jim Cass. The archive will be made available to researchers after being processed by the library.
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