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Rock 'n' roll writer Anthony DeCurtis receives Distinguished Alumni Award


Author and music critic Anthony DeCurtis applauds English majors before speaking about his book "Lou Reed: A Life". DeCurtis spoke at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 21, in the Solarium of the Indiana Memorial Union. Ty Vinson Buy Photos

Even though music writer Anthony DeCurtis was born and raised in Manhattan, New York, he said Bloomington is where he really did his growing up. 

He spent five years at IU for graduate school, receiving a Ph.D. in American literature in 1980, and is back at IU this week to receive one of three Distinguished Alumni Awards for 2018 from the College of Arts and Sciences. 

DeCurtis has been a contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine for more than 35 years and has written multiple books on rock ’n’ roll. 

Most recently, he released the biography “Lou Reed: A Life,” which he read from Wednesday night to an audience in the Indiana Memorial Union’s Solarium. 

Music professors and record store owners could be spotted in the crowd, along with a mix of students, faculty and community members. 

The book, which was published Oct. 10, 2017, focuses on Reed's complex and nuanced personality, which is often oversimplified or misunderstood in other biographies, DeCurtis said in an October interview with the Indiana Daily Student.

“I really didn’t anticipate the degree of interest in it,” DeCurtis said to the IDS before the event. 

Writers are used to not getting the attention they feel they deserve, he said, but the feedback for this book has been incredible. He said he’s been doing events and interviews since it published in October, and the book has garnered the attention of major news and music outlets.  

“I’m proud of it,” he said. “I like the way it came out. I’m happy with it.” 

DeCurtis said he wrote about Reed because he thinks Reed is just as influential of a songwriter and musical figure as any that exist in rock ’n’ roll. 

DeCurtis isn’t big on trying to sell Reed to people, though. If people have a curiosity about Reed, that’s all DeCurtis needs to take them the rest of the way there.

IU makes a cameo in the book in a scene where Reed visits Professor Glenn Gass' history of rock 'n' roll class in 1987. 

DeCurtis read from the chapter “Coney Island Baby” to the audience. He said the chapter is one of the sections he likes the most because he feels like it isn’t his book. 

Writing a book means spending a lot of time reading and re-reading it, he said, but this section made him forget it was his book and get into it.

After the reading, English Professor Edward Comentale interviewed DeCurtis about Reed.

“Wherever I go, an English major is doing something cool,” Comentale said first, referring to both DeCurtis and Reed. 

Comentale asked about a variety of subjects, including Reed’s early life, his status as a gay icon, stereotypes about him, and his musical style and voice. Then the audience asked questions, and DeCurtis signed books for the crowd.

Anthony DeCurtis, author and contributing editor for Rolling Stone, signs copies of his book "Lou Reed: A Life" for fans. DeCurtis spoke about his book and answered questions from the audience Feb. 21 in the Solarium of the Indiana Memorial Union. Ty Vinson Buy Photos

Arts and Sciences Dean Larry Singell said in a letter to DeCurtis that his ability to tell stories and forge his own path with his English degree is a testament to the arts and sciences and among the reasons why he will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award.

DeCurtis' peers on the Arts and Sciences Alumni Board nominated him for the award based on his professional achievements, which have shown how he’s used his liberal arts degree to its full potential, said Vanessa Cloe, director of alumni relations in the College of Arts and Sciences. 

Additionally, the board considered how active DeCurtis has been on campus. Cloe said he is always willing to come back to IU and engage with the student body. 

DeCurtis said anytime he gets invited back to IU, he always wants to come.

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