Telegraph feature writer Mick Brown, who interviewed Lou Reed in 2007, says the songwriter could be notoriously difficult with journalists, but once engaged he was an extraordinarily illuminating, interesting and literary interviewee.

Lou Reed, US singer, songwriter and guitarist who profoundly influenced generations of musicians as leader of the Velvet Underground and remained a vital solo performer for decades after, died on Sunday aged 71.

Reed was a notoriously difficult interviewee, who once defined abject misery as being interviewed by an English journalist.

Telegraph feature writer Mick Brown, who interviewed him in New York in 2007, said he could feel "almost feel the force field of hostility that was flowing off him towards me.

"He sort of regarded my outstretched hand as a cattleprod.
"But once one was able to engage him in subjects he was interested in, then he was extraordinarily illuminating, interesting and fascinating interviewee."

Reed never approached the commercial success of such superstars as the Beatles and Bob Dylan, but as a songwriter he opened rock music to the avant-garde -- to experimental theatre, art, literature and film, to William Burroughs and Kurt Weill, to John Cage and Andy Warhol, Reed's early patron.

"He was an extraordinarily literary songwriter. He main influences were literary as much as they were musical, William Burroughs, Delmore Schwartz and his great hero Hubert Selby.

"Lou Reed talked about what an influence Selby's writing was on him and he said that he wanted to do in rock'n'roll what Hubert Selby had done in literature to write in that completely honest, completely unexpurgated way."

Reed only had had one top 20 hit, Walk On the Wild Side, and many other songs that became standards among his admirers, from Heroin and Sweet Jane to Pale Blue Eye and All Tomorrow's Parties.

"It is right to say that he was a huge influence on people, but it is that candour and honesty in his songwriting, and in an encounter with an English journalist, which was so remarkable about him," Mick Brown said.

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