To judge by the lyrics of some of Lou Reed’s songs, one would think Mr. Reed was raised in a highly dysfunctional environment, but Merrill Reed Weiner, Lou’s sister, warns people not to take those lyrics too much to heart. Ms. Reed said that she was shocked to learn one biographer in particular did just that in a book that devastated those that had been close to the Reed family.
“It’s just so ludicrous, and for someone to be that facile in interpreting lyrics as truth is… I mean, do we take D.H. Lawrence and assume everything is authentic?”
One of Lou Reed’s most popular solo songs led to much supposition regarding Mr. Reed’s sexual orientation and added to rumors about his parents’ alleged homophobia.
Ms. Reed decided that it was very important to her and to the memory of Lou Reed to get the truth out there, so she penned an essay and, with the help of her son, had it published by Medium magazine earlier this month.
Contrary to rumors that have been spreading since Lou Reed’s death in 2013, which had been the result of liver disease, Merrill describes their upbringing as just what one would expect in an “average middle class Jewish family.” Ms. Reed describes their parents as “caring and benevolent,” admitting that the stormy times of the period affected the Reed family as much as they did any family.
It had been a popular assumption that Lou’s parents had been severely homophobic and that Lou had been given ECT treatments, following a confession that he had homosexual urges. Ms. Reed told Billboard that nothing could be further from the truth. Although Lou had been given ECT treatments, the motivation for the electroconvulsive therapy was to help Lou overcome a nervous breakdown.
Ms. Reed adds that there was much long-lasting remorse connected with her parents’ decision to submit Lou for the ECT therapy.
“They were caught in a bewildering web of guilt, fear, and poor psychiatric care. Did they make a mistake in not challenging the doctor’s recommendation for ECT? Absolutely. I have no doubt they regretted it until the day they died. But the family secret continued. We absolutely never spoke about the treatments, then or ever.”
As for Lou Reed’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Merrill says that Lou would have been honored. She said that he might not have let on to it publicly, but, privately, it would have pleased Lou greatly to have been inducted.
“He wouldn’t be smiling quite the way I am, for sure. I think he would be amused. I think he would be sardonic and I think he’d be secretly delighted, really, really delighted. [Music] meant the world to him, and I wish he were here to see it. It’s amazing for him to be recognized in this way.”
Joan Jett was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
[Featured Image: Lou Reed tribute courtesy of Mike Coppola/Getty Images]