Thursday would have been Lou Reed's 75th birthday. This morning, his widow, performance artist Laurie Anderson, marked the occasion by announcing that the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will house Reed's complete archives. The collection includes thousands of hours of video and audio recordings, Reed's personal record collection and more than 300 boxes of papers, photos and other items spanning his six-decade career.
There's a 1971 recording of Reed reading poetry. There's a bill from the legendary New York bar Max's Kansas City — Reed's tab stood at $194.08. There's also a birthday card of more recent vintage inscribed, "Dear Honey Bun, Love and Hugs, Mo" — as in Moe Tucker, The Velvet Underground's drummer. But NYPL director Jonathan Hiam says it's the business and legal records that have him excited: The contracts, licensing agreements, tour receipts, and other documents paint a detailed picture of how the music industry evolved.
"These kinds of documents are usually in the hands of a private enterprise still, and there's usually no financial incentive to make them available to anybody," Hiam says. "So if you're doing research, this is really a boon."
Later this year, library staff will begin the process of digitizing the thousands of hours of video and audio recordings. Music producer and archivist Don Fleming, who has been supervising the restoration, says the process has turned up a few gems.