Rocker Lou Reed of Velvet Underground dies at 71

By Jonathan Allen and Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lou Reed, the pioneering musician who fronted influential rock band The Velvet Underground and won mainstream acclaim with solo songs "Walk on the Wild Side" and "Perfect Day", died on Sunday aged 71.

Reed, whose band fused music and art in collaboration with its early benefactor, pop artist Andy Warhol, died at the Long Island home he shared with his wife, Laurie Anderson, following complications from a liver transplant earlier this year, his literary agent Andrew Wylie said.

"I think Lou was as great an artist as it was possible to be," Wylie said. "It's a great loss."

Formed by Reed and classically trained Welsh-born musician John Cale in the mid-1960s as an experiment in avant-garde rock, The Velvet Underground gained Warhol's notice soon after hitting the New York club scene.

While the band never achieved great commercial success, it revolutionized rock in the 1960s and '70s with a mixture of thrashing guitar licks and smooth melodies sung by Reed or the German model Nico.

The Velvet Underground has long been recognized as a major musical inspiration for punk art and rock, as reflected in a quote often attributed to musician Brian Eno: "The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band."

Neil Portnow, president the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which bestows the Grammys, credited Reed with "introducing avant-garde rock to the mainstream."

"His uniquely stripped-down style of guitar playing and poetic lyrics have had a massive influence across many rock genres, including punk and alternatives," Portnow said.

Fellow avant-garde rocker David Bowie, who helped produce Reed's second solo album and is often cited as one of his greatest musical heirs, posted a picture of the two recording stars together on his Facebook page, saying of his old friend: "He was a master."

Cale, who played bass, organ and viola in the Velvets and had an often-fractious relationship with Reed, said on his Facebook page: "The world has lost a fine songwriter and poet ... I've lost my 'school-yard buddy,'" he said.

Reed and Cale put aside their differences to release a tribute album to Warhol in 1990 called "Songs for Drella." That album led to a handful of reunion performances by members of The Velvet Underground's original line-up - rounded out by guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker - in the early 1990s.

Musician Iggy Pop's official Twitter account called news of Reed's death "devastating," while musician Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth tweeted: "So sorry to hear of Lou Reed's passing this is a huge shock!"

An admitted hard drinker and drug user for many years, Reed underwent a liver transplant earlier this year in Cleveland, his wife revealed, after he had canceled a series of California concert dates in April.

"I am a triumph of modern medicine," Reed posted on his website on June 1, 2013, without directly acknowledging the transplant. "I look forward to being on stage performing, and writing more songs to connect with your hearts and spirits and the universe well into the future."

LYRICS THAT SHOCKED

Reed has been widely credited with expanding the lexicon of rock 'n' roll with provocative lyrics that chronicled androgyny, illicit sex, and drug abuse, notably in the song "Heroin," in which he declares, "It's my wife, and it's my life."

"Walk on the Wild Side," a catchy tune from his second solo album, "Transformer," co-produced by Bowie, became Reed's only top-20 hit single, though it contained lyrical references to transexuality, drugs and male prostitution.

"Sister Ray" - a 17-minute blast of guitar distortions - likewise combined stories of sailors, oral sex, murder, intravenous drug use and the mysterious title character.

"I never in a million years thought people would be outraged by what I was doing," Reed said in a 1989 interview with Rolling Stone magazine. "You could go to your neighborhood bookstore and get any of that."

One of his signature songs, first performed by The Velvet Underground and later a staple of his solo act, was simply titled "Rock and Roll," a semi-autobiographical story of how music saved the life of a young fan listening on the radio.

His stage persona, often appearing in a dog collar and eye makeup, opened the door for Bowie and other artists to take sexually ambivalent styles into the mainstream.

It was personified in the landmark live album "Rock N Roll Animal," released in 1974. That record closely followed the studio-record rock opera album "Berlin," which he brought to life again with a 2006 concert that was made into a 2007 film directed by Julian Schnabel.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 as a member of The Velvet Underground, Reed grew into something of an elder statesman of rock, a towering figure in a club with fellow legends such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young.

Reed always placed great importance on song-writing. One of his first jobs out of college was as a staff writer for Pickwick Records. He dedicated the 1966 song "European Son" to the late poet, Delmore Schwartz, under whom he studied at Syracuse University.

Reed was married three times, the latest to recording and performance artist Laurie Anderson in 2008, and in recent years took an interest in photography, staging exhibitions of his work. (Writing by Cynthia Johnston and Daniel Trotta; Additional reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Steve Gorman, Diane Craft and Sandra Maler)

Most Viewed

  • Saif-Kareena Kapoor Khan And Soha-Kunal Khemu’s Wild Holiday
    Saif-Kareena Kapoor Khan And Soha-Kunal Khemu’s Wild Holiday

    Actress Kareena Kapoor Khan with hubby Saif Ali Khan spend their quality time with newly wed couple Soha Ali Khan and Kunal Khemu. The couples are in Nagarhole, spending their weekend staying over at Saad Bin Jung’s resort, The Bison. In the picture, Kareena, Saif, and Soha Ali Khan are chilling out in open cottage, assuming Kunal Khemu clicking their picture, as he is missing. Kunal Khemu tweeted, On the early morning safari at Nagarhole wildlife reserve through the mist we spotted this …

  • Ranbir Kapoor goes gown on his knees to propose to Deepika Padukone
    Ranbir Kapoor goes gown on his knees to propose to Deepika Padukone

    All the eyes are on Ranbir Kapoor and his ex beau Deepika Padukone who have been shooting together for their upcoming film Tamasha. Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone were shooting for a romantic scene, where Ranbir had to go down on knees and propose Deepika Padukone. You can see in the pictures, Ranbir Kapoor goes down on Knees, while Deepika Padukone gets surprised on it. The film stars Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone and is directed by Imtiaz Ali. …

  • Check Out: Alia Bhatt’s Transformed Vanity Van
    Check Out: Alia Bhatt’s Transformed Vanity Van

    Bollywood’s cutest actress Alia Bhatt is too excited and happy for her new personalized Vanity Van. The actress has recently got a new makeover for her vanity van. Alia Bhatt who calls her vanity van as a second home tweeted with a picture, “My second home, my vanity van !!! Thank you amritamahalnakai for transforming my van !! I love you to… Student Of The Year actress got her old vanity van customized into new according to her taste by Amrita Mahalnakai. As you can see in the picture just …

  • Sussanne Khan Spent Rs 16 Crore On A Penthouse In Pune?
    Sussanne Khan Spent Rs 16 Crore On A Penthouse In Pune?

    Hrithik Roshan‘s ex-wife Sussanne Khan has bought an expensive property for herself outside Mumbai city. According to recent reports, Sussanne Khan bought a beautiful penthouse in Pune for about 16 crore! The penthouse is located in Trump Towers, Kalyani Nagar and the celebrity interior decorator has bought the property only for investment purpose. A source was quoted saying, “Yes, she has purchased a penthouse in Pune. It is located in Trump Towers, Kalyani Nagar. …

  • Beef Ban Takes Bollywood By Storm!
    Beef Ban Takes Bollywood By Storm!

    Bollywood celebrities are now coming forward and voicing their opinion on different matters. First it was the controversial AIB Roast, and now it’s the ‘Beef Ban’ that took the Internet by storm. To exercise their right to freedom of speech, our Bollywood celebrities took to their Twitter accounts and posted their views on the recent ‘beef ban’ sanctioned by Maharashtra government. Mumbai being the hub of most of Bollywood celebrities who opt to dine as they wish this news came as a shocker. …

  • Manoj Bajpayee turns gay professor; sports unkempt look for ALIGARH
    Manoj Bajpayee turns gay professor; sports unkempt look for ALIGARH

    The first look of Manoj Bajpayee's character in National Award-winning filmmaker Hansal …

  • 'Yeh Rishta Kya...' 10-year leap delayed

    Mumbai, March 4 (IANS) An impending 10-year leap in the story of TV show "Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai" has been delayed as the show's producers are yet to find a fresh face for the character Naksh. According to a source, the show had to postpone the planned 10-year leap to make time to zero in on apt casting for Naksh, the 20-year-old son of Naitik (Karan Mehra) and Akshara (Hina Khan). …

  • Yummy Mummy Aishwarya Rai Bachchan redefines hotness!
    Yummy Mummy Aishwarya Rai Bachchan redefines hotness!

    Aishwarya Rai Bachchan doesn't cease to amaze us with her beauty and with her recent photo shoot …

Loading...