Lou Reed’s sister denies that their parents sent him to electroshock therapy for homosexuality

Merrill Reed Weiner also rejects claims that her father physically abused the Velvet Underground musician

The sister of late musician Lou Reed has penned a new article in which she discusses growing up with the singer, setting the record straight on several rumours regarding his life.

Merrill Reed Weiner, now a psychotherapist based in New York, has written a piece for Medium in which she discusses, among other things, claims that her parents sent The Velvet Underground frontman to electroshock therapy for homosexual urges he experienced during his youth.

“As biographers have begun in earnest to explore every aspect of that life, there has been speculation about the childhood issues that contributed to his artistic genius,” Weiner begins. “With this piece I hope to provide clarity and context around this section of his life, as it has been inaccurately portrayed by previous authors, to the detriment of my family.”


Weiner confirmed that Reed did indeed attend electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) session, but that it wasn’t due to any suspicions of homosexuality, nor was it seen as anything other than a last resort by her parents.

“During Lou’s teenage years, it became obvious that he was becoming increasingly anxious, avoidant and resistant to most socialising,” she continued. “Told by doctors that they were to blame and that their son suffered from severe mental illness, they thought they had no choice… It has been suggested by some authors that ECT was approved by my parents because Lou had confessed to homosexual urges. How simplistic. He was depressed, weird, anxious, and avoidant.”

Weiner added: “My parents were many things, but homophobic they were not. In fact, they were blazing liberals.”

Reed’s sibling also denied claims by the singer himself that he was physically abused by his father as a child. She stated: “Lou’s accusations towards our father, of violence and a lack of love, seemed rooted in that time. The stories he related  –  of being hit, of being treated like an inanimate object  – seemed total fantasy to me. I must say that I never saw my father raise a hand to anyone, certainly not to us and never to my mother. Nor did I see a lack of love for his son during our childhood.”

Despite their difficult upbringing, Weiner stated that the pair remained close throughout their lives and right up until Reed’s death in 2013. She recalled: “After he recovered, he and my parents decided he should go off to Syracuse University and begin again. And he did. The rest, as they say, is history. His musical genius, his poetry, and his legacy have had an impact on many people and will continue to do so for generations to come.

“I loved him, tenderly and without reservation. He and I remained brother and sister right to the end…. It made me a more compassionate family therapist. And it made me sensitive to the plight of so many families, criticised and left without support through such difficult times.”


Lou Reed passed away from liver disease on October 27, 2013 at the age of 71. He will be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame this Saturday (April 18), with Beck and Karen O set to pay tribute to him live.