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Lou Reed Dies At 71 -- Legendary Artist, But Difficult Interviewee

Lou Reed, on the road in 2012, has died. He was 71. He was notorious for being a difficult interviewee.

Lou Reed, the punk-poet of rock ‘n’ roll, died Sunday. He was 71. He died from an ailment related to a recent liver transplant.

Reed was leader of the 1960s cult band Velvet Underground. He later became a solo performer. He influenced generations of musicians from David Bowie and R.E.M. to Talking Heads and Sonic Youth.

He was a legendary musician – and legendary for being a difficult interviewee. But KERA’s Jerome Weeks turned around a nice radio piece in 2010 about Reed, focusing on his photography. Many of his landscape pictures were on display at the Wichita Falls Museum of Art at Midwestern State University.

Yes, Reed had been interested in photography since the late ‘60s. But he only started exhibiting and publishing his work about 10 years ago.

Jerome reported: “Reed doesn’t think this shift in sensibility merits an explanation. The photos don’t, either. ‘It’s called nature,’ Reed said. ‘That’s all. Just things that looked beautiful.’”

Reed consulted with David Adamson, a digital printmaker. Jerome reported:

“It’s very hard for [Reed] to understand that you put a show on with Lou Reed and the name itself brings a certain perception,” Adamson said. “Lou really doesn’t want that. He kind of wants to put his work out and people look at it for the beauty of the images.” So we should set aside thoughts of “Sister Ray” or “The Black Angel’s Death Song” or even Metal Machine Music. “Well. That would help,” Reed said. Is that something that gets in the way of people appreciating the photos? “Oh, let’s not make a thing of it, please,” Reed said. “Let’s just stick to the photos.”

In 2003, Reed spoke with NPR’s Liane Hanson on Weekend Edition Sunday:

While promoting his album The Raven, Reed vented to NPR’s Liane Hanson on Weekend Edition Sunday in 2003. She wanted to know how other journalists had somehow mixed up Reed's original lyrics with the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. "Well, if you're deaf, dumb and retarded, it's easy. I can't believe people interview me for this stuff and don't notice," he says. "I grade them and I put them on my website when they fail really badly, to warn other people, other musicians: 'Watch out for this interviewer.' It's like talking to a squirrel."

The Associated Press reported:

Even though "The Velvet Underground and Nico" album peaked at number 171 and was the best-selling Velvet Underground album while the band was still together, Rolling Stone named it to its list of the most influential albums of all time. Brian Eno once said hardly anyone bought that album but everyone who did went on to form their own bands. Reed's solo work is probably best known for the song "Walk on the Wild Side." Reed also produced music that many considered unlistenable. Critics believed his 1975 album "Metal Machine Music" was a joke or a way to run out his contract, but Reed swore it was art. His 2011 collaboration with Metallica, "Lulu," got generally negative reviews and fans of both acts mostly ignored it. Reed won only one Grammy, in 1998 for best long form music video for "American Masters - Lou Reed: Rock And Roll Heart."

Reed’s obituary from The New York Times.

NPR explored Reed's life on All Things Considered.

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.