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Anthony DeCurtis traces Lou Reed’s legacy at SU

Anthony DeCurtis traces in Lou Reed’s legacy at SU

Veteran rock journalist explores the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s college days and inspirations.
Published on March 9, 2019

Anthony DeCurtis traces Lou Reed’s legacy at SU

Anthony DeCurtis traces Lou Reed’s legacy at SU

Veteran rock journalist explores the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s college days and inspirations.
Published on March 9, 2019

 

In the Special Collections archives at Syracuse University’s Bird Library, Anthony DeCurtis flips through the pages of a 1960’s-era student-made magazine called The Lonely Woman. As he pours over the first few pages, he pauses to notice a peculiar byline at the bottom of one story.

“Luis Reed,” he reads with a small chuckle.

DeCurtis, the author of Lou Reed: A Life and contributing editor at Rolling Stone, recognized The Velvet Underground singer’s gender-swapped name immediately. The origins of Reed’s career as a musician and lyricist, DeCurtis said, can be found here from his time as a student at Syracuse University.

“Lou was very proud of it in his own way, but he wouldn’t really I don’t think ever admit that,” DeCurtis said, “but he would tell you ‘I graduated with honors in English.’ You know, that’s not a really rock-star thing to say.”

While Reed attended SU, he met his mentor and spirit guide, Delmore Schwartz. DeCurtis said the renowned poet’s work and conversations had a profound impact on Lou’s own perception of himself as an artist.

“I think Saul Bellow once called Delmore the ‘Mozart of conversation’ and I think Lou really responded to that aspect of Delmore,” DeCurtis said. “He once said Delmore was ‘writing out loud,’ but writing out loud was kind of I think Lou felt he was doing with his songs.”

Throughout the discussion with DeCurtis at SU, the concept of Reed considering himself a writer before a musician was a recurring theme. In a listening session filled with students enrolled in Prof. Theo Cateforis‘ rock music history course, HOM 378, DeCurtis unfolded Reed’s characters within “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” to further illustrate the idea.

DeCurtis explained he ultimately wrote his book to render Reed in the same way the singer-songwriter composed his music, with truth and a three-dimensional understanding of the world.

“I wanted to get across why anybody would care,” DeCurtis said, “and that’s about the music and the words.”

Avatar for Randy Plavajka

is a magazine, news and online graduate student and contributor to The NewsHouse.

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is a photo illustration senior and contributor for The NewsHouse.