Lou Reed’s Tai Chi

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Lou Reed, musician, rock icon, poet, leader of the legendary Velvet Underground, was obsessed with tai chi — the practice, the community, the health and spiritual benefits. Lou had been writing a book about this ancient martial art that was unfinished when he died in 2013.

Lou’s wife, the artist and musician Laurie Anderson, looked at Lou’s unfinished work and decided the book needed to be completed, that there was something important to be shared in Lou’s long, life-altering journey with tai chi.

She turned to three of Lou’s friends to help her with the project. By the time the book, The Art of the Straight Line: My Tai Chi by Lou Reed, hit the stands in the spring of 2023, they had spoken with nearly 100 people and created a riveting portrait of Lou’s spiritual, medical and musical life, beckoning readers to enter the world of tai chi.

The Kitchen Sisters read the book and we kept thinking, these conversations must have been taped. We asked Laurie if there were recordings. There were. Dozens and dozens of them from rock stars, to tai chi masters, to doctors, to family….

We listened to the raw interviews, this remarkable trove of sound and story, and created a podcast that goes deep inside the making of this book. Voices heard in the story include Laurie Anderson, Iggy Pop, Julian Schnabel, Hal Willner, Anohni, Master Ren and many more, plus archival recordings of Lou Reed.

Lou Reed’s Tai Chi was produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva) in collaboration with Caroline Champlin, Brandi Howell and Nathan Dalton. Mixed by Jim McKee.

Special Thanks to Laurie Anderson, Scott Richman, Stephan Berwick and Robert Currie and to A.M. Homes.

Thanks also to Jason Stern and Jim Cass. And to Bill Berger, Iggy Pop, Master Ren Guangyi, Leung Shum, Robert Wilson, Anohni, Julian Schnabel, Sarth Calhoun, Peter Morales, Tony Visconti and the late great Hal Willner, all interviewed for the book, The Art of the Straight Line: My Tai Chi by Lou Reed published by Harper One, an Imprint of HarperCollins, available in paperback, e-book and audiobook.

The music heard in this story includes Street Hassle, Open Invitation, Walk on the Wild Side, Future Farmers of America from Time Rocker, The Raven, Hudson River Meditation and The Power of the Heart all by Lou Reed. Heroin by the Velvet Underground. Little Dog by Lou Reed and Metallica. I’m in Love by Anohni and the Johnsons.

Funding for The Kitchen Sisters Present… comes from Susan Sillins, The Kaleta Doolin Foundation, The Texas Women’s Foundation, the slew of bowlers at Bowling with Grace 2023 and listener contributions to The Kitchen Sisters Productions. Thank you all for your support.

The Kitchen Sisters Present… is part of Radiotopia from PRX, a lively network of story-driven, richly produced, independent podcasts that expand and illuminate your world.