Lou Reed papers

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Collection Data

Lou Reed was an American musician best known for co-founding the Velvet Underground, and his five-decade long career as a solo artist. Reed's papers date from 1958 to 2015, and chronicle his career through audio and video recordings, office files, photographs, artwork, and press clippings. The collection details Reed's musical output, as well as the administrative and business dealings involved in producing records and touring worldwide.
Reed, Lou (Creator)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1958 - 2015
Library locations
Music Division
Shelf locator: JPB 18-01
Cale, John
Tucker, Maureen
Velvet Underground (Musical group)
Guitarists -- United States
Music -- United States -- 20th century
Music -- United States -- 21st century
Music business
Rock concerts
Rock groups -- New York (N.Y.)
Rock music -- New York (N.Y.)
Rock musicians -- New York (N.Y.)
Sound recording industry -- United States
Live sound recordings
Video recordings
Sound recordings
Biographical/historical: Lou Reed was an American musician best known for co-founding the Velvet Underground, and his five-decade long career as a solo artist. Lewis "Lou" Allan Reed was born on March 2, 1942 in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Freeport, Long Island. In 1964, he earned a Bachelor's degree from Syracuse University and moved to New York City to pursue a career in music as a guitarist and songwriter. Reed formed the Velvet Underground with John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Moe Tucker in 1965, and released four studio albums with the band, before embarking on a solo career in 1970. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Reed released fifteen studio albums, four live albums, and toured frequently in support of his records. He started off 1990 by again collaborating with John Cale, which ultimately set in motion a Velvet Underground reunion tour in 1993. Three years later, and shortly after the death of Sterling Morrison, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Between 1991 and 2011, Reed released six studio albums, seven live albums, and two career-spanning anthologies. He continued to tour frequently, and also published two books of lyrics and three photography books. On October 27, 2013, Reed died of liver failure at his home in East Hampton, New York. He is survived by his wife, Laurie Anderson. In 2015, Reed was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist.
Content: The Lou Reed papers date from 1958 to 2015, and follow Reed's music career from the formation of the Velvet Underground, through his five-decade long career as a solo rock and roll musician. The collection is arranged into eight Series, which includes audio and video recordings; office files from Reed's company Sister Ray Enterprises; documentation of tours and live performances; photographs of and by Reed; art and design files; press clippings; and personal files. The collection documents Reed's musical, visual, and written output, while providing insight into the business and administrative operations necessary to manage and sustain his recording and performance career. Series I contains audio and video recordings from the entirety of Reed's music career, and includes demos, rehearsals, studio recordings, recordings of live performances, television and film appearances, recordings of radio programs, recorded conversations and interviews, and a selection of recordings by other artists with whom Reed was affiliated. The Series provides a career-spanning in depth document of Reed's musical output that includes a 1965 audio reel containing recordings of Reed's earliest known compositions, and comprises material from each of Reed's official solo studio recordings. There are also hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings from Reed's live shows, performances, and appearances, spanning from Velvet Underground shows in the 1960s shows to Reed's final world tour in 2012. Series II consists of documentation regarding the business and administrative aspects of Reed's professional music career, and includes fan mail, financial documents, legal files, licensing agreements, and a group of alphabetically arranged subject files. The series contains files originating from Reed's office, Sister Ray Enterprises, as well its predecessors, Oakfield Avenue Music and Transformer Enterprises. These files illustrate the manner in which Reed and his associates managed the legal, financial, and business elements of his career. The Series holds financial documentation from the 1970s to 2000s and agreements related to the licensing of Reed's words and music for commercials, films, television, and covers by other artists. Documentation specifically related to Reed's touring and live performances comprise Series III. The Series contains chronologically arranged files that chronicle five decades of Reed's tours. Materials found in this Series include itineraries, contracts, agreements, tour riders, receipts, payroll, and laminates. These files also serve as a companion to the live performance recordings in Series I, providing information on the personnel and logistics involved in much of Reed's touring career. The visual aspects of Reed's career are present in both Series IV and Series VI. Series IV holds photographs of Reed and the Velvet Underground, and includes promotional shots, images of live performances, and a large collection of photographs taken by Reed. Series VI comprises Art and Design files, and features album artwork, book layout files, in-store album displays, posters, handbills, and shirts. Reed's written works are all compiled in Series V, which holds book manuscripts, liner notes, lyrics, magazine and newspaper articles, notebooks, poetry, sheet music, short stories, and speeches. The Series is primarily typed lyrics from Reed's commercially released music, as well as manuscripts from his published books of lyrics. The collection also contains press clippings, which comprise Series VII, and Reed's Personal Collection, that encompass the content of Series VIII. The personal items include artwork, Reed's cameras, personal correspondence, his glasses, passports, materials related to his Tai Chi practice, two high school yearbooks, and his personal record collection.
Physical Description
Extent: 90 linear feet (211 boxes, 27 tubes, 4 oversized folders); 2.5 terabytes (40,920 computer files)
Type of Resource
Sound recording
Still image
Moving image
MSS Unit ID: 24078
Archives collections id: archives_collections_24078
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b21759149
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): dba41b30-0ae6-0137-bfb0-4fa251ecd76a
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