Lou Reed Tai Chi Day to celebrate Brooklyn artist’s life, legacy

Legendary NYC musician Lou Reed, pictured here in 2009 on a city rooftop, studied Tai Chi for decades.
Legendary NYC musician Lou Reed, pictured here in 2009 on a city rooftop, studied Tai Chi for decades. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Iconic musician, songwriter and poet Lou Reed may have been best known for his work with The Velvet Underground, but the late Brooklynite was — and is — highly respected for his dedication to Tai Chi.

For over 30 years, Reed spent hours each day practicing the martial art, and even more time studying different teachings. Musician Laurie Anderson, widowed by Reed’s death in 2013, said his passion was contagious, spreading to herself, other musicians and fans alike. 

"I remember he worked with Metallica. They were so impressed with Lou and how he always had this calmness. They wanted to know, and he said it was Tai Chi," Anderson said. 

This Saturday, hundreds of Tai Chi practitioners will gather in his native borough to honor his legacy with a day of activities that aim to encourage peace and serenity. Lou Reed Tai Chi day will begin at 8 a.m. with guided meditation in the Brooklyn Public Central Library’s Grand Lobby, followed by sessions in the plaza outside led by Ren Guang Yi, Reed’s master for the last 12 years of his life, who will teach Chen style forms.

Meredith Walters, of the Brooklyn Public Library, said Master Ren immediately signed on to help with the event, not hesitating to help continue the musician’s mission to teach the martial art to as many people as he could.

"Lou believed anyone could do Tai Chi, and he wanted to get it out to everyone as possible," she said.

Guests who attend the library’s event will also be given access to some of Reed’s personal collection of Tai Chi-related items. Practice weapons, out-of-print books on Tai Chi practices and some of his notes that were loaned by the Lou Reed Archive at the New York Public Library and Anderson will be on display in the library, according to Walters.

"You can look at his library under glass and then you can go to a pop-up section and take out the latest edition and learn more about Tai Chi," she said.

The event, which has over 600 RSVPS as of Wednesday afternoon, will continue in the evening at the Prospect Park Bandshell. Master Ren will lead another Tai Chi session set to Reed’s guitar music. The day will end with a screening of the 2000 movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

Other cities around the world, including San Francisco and Paris, will also hold their own Lou Reed Tai Chi Day Saturday, but Anderson said the Brooklyn events would be special because the borough is filled with a uniquely diverse set of Tai Chi practitioners that has welcomed newcomers. She said Reed would have been humbled to have seen the crowds. 

"I don’t think he got a chance in life to appreciate how much people loved him and his work," she said. "I think he would have been thrilled about this, but he also would have been shocked."