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My Tai Chi

by Lou Reed & edited by Laurie Anderson & Stephan Berwick & Bob Currie & Scott Richman

Pub Date: March 14th, 2023
ISBN: 9780063093539
Publisher: HarperOne

The late, great musician and associates recount his passion for an ancient martial art.

“I have to say, it’s strange and wonderful to collaborate with someone who’s been dead for almost ten years,” writes Reed’s longtime partner in life, artist and musician Laurie Anderson, who takes Reed’s sketchy notes on tai chi and blends them with interviews and contributions from others who share his ardent love of what practitioners call “playing.” One of them is actor Michael Imperioli, who writes that “martial arts was a gateway for me into a spiritual path.” Certainly it was for Reed, who emerged from his years with the Velvet Underground with serious addictions to alcohol and drugs and remade himself through decades of nearly daily practice. Reed writes appreciatively of his teachers, most of them Chinese immigrants who brought the Wu and Chen traditions to New York. The gentle Wu helped him acquire better emotional health, while the explosive Chen gave him the joy of stomping about. Along the way, practitioners and peers such as Iggy Pop (a serious devotee of qi gong) and Tony Visconti discuss the physical, mental, and spiritual elements of the martial arts, with Visconti allowing that the youthful excesses that felled so many of their peers were ameliorated by the time spent in practice: “Tai Chi is a life saver.” Throughout the book, bits and pieces of Reed’s wisdom, often delivered with a sting—everyone agrees he wasn’t always the nicest guy—drop into the reader’s lap—e.g., don’t be afraid, be alert to bullshit, and “be as tender as possible.” The Reed-ian snarl and sneer are always in evidence, too, as when he says with faux dismissiveness, “I mean if being an auto mechanic was actually healthy for you, maybe I’d have done that.”

A pleasure for students of tai chi and fans of Reed’s music alike.