Lou Reed — who has just published a volume of his lyrics, poetry, and interviews, Between Thought and Expression — is among the most literary of rock stars. He studied with poet Delmore Schwartz at Syracuse University and prides himself on having written for little magazines like the Paris Review.
Though actually Reed is part of a rock & roll literary tradition that goes back at least to John Lennon’s pun-filled 1964 collection of sketches, In His Own Write. Other examples include the free-associatin’ Bob Dylan’s book of prose and poetry, Tarantula (1971); Patti Smith’s visionary poetry on the perennial rock themes of drugs, sex, and religion; Pete Townshend’s vaguely autobiographical short stories, Horse’s Neck (1985); and Jimmy Buffett’s best-selling Tales From Margaritaville (1989).
Why are pop stars interested in writing? A desire for literary immortality obsessed Jim Morrison, who published a volume of poetry, The Lords and the New Creatures, in 1969. Wallace Fowlie, professor emeritus of French at Duke University, is even working on a book comparing Morrison with the 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud.
But Bruce Dickinson sees literature as a lark, a break from the round of recording and touring. The lead singer of the veteran heavy-metal band Iron Maiden is set to publish the sequel to his Monty Pythonish novel The Adventures of Lord Iffy Boatrace, which was a best-seller in England. ”It’s designed as a form of entertainment — not to win the Pulitzer Prize,” Dickinson has said. ”It’s supposed to make people laugh.”