Lou Reed, 71, passed away Sunday, Oct. 27, at his home in Southampton, N.Y., after battling liver disease.
A highly influential figure in rock music, Reed is acclaimed for his seminal proto-punk art-rock work with the Velvet Underground in the 1960s, and for his subsequent lengthy solo career. As a songwriter, singer and guitarist, he had a particular talent for combining minimalist song structures with poetically streetwise New York imagery that ran a gamut from infectious pop to some of rock’s darkest, grittiest music.
Reed’s deadpan, half-sung-half-spoken depictions of street-life drug use and sexuality resulted in Velvet Underground classics such as “I’m Waiting For the Man,” “Heroin,” “Venus in Furs” and “White Light/White Heat,” and his own biggest hits, most notably “Walk on the Wild Side,” from acclaimed 1972 solo album Transformer.
Frequently cited as a “godfather” of punk, Reed actually produced a much more wide-ranging body of work that encompassed glam, art rock, experimental rock and avant-garde music. Generations of post-punk artists and bands revere him as an inspiration and an elder statesman of Dylan-esque proportions.
Born Lewis Reed in Brooklyn on March 2, 1942, he was smitten with rock ‘n’ roll during boyhood in the 1950s, teaching himself guitar and playing in bands during high school. An early-’60s stint as a house songwriter for Pickwick Records in New York introduced Reed to musician John Cale, which in turn led to the formation of the Velvet Underground in 1965. Although the band achieved little commercial success, the Reed-led version of the band recorded four studio albums from 1967 to 1970 and became a major influence on legions of acts and artists to follow. Reed solo albums including Transformer, Berlin (1973), Sally Can’t Dance (1974) and the live Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal (1974) are particularly acclaimed by critics and revered by fans.
Reed remained an active performing and recording artist over the ensuing decades, and later years saw excursions into more ambient and experimental music and collaborations with artists including the Killers, Gorillaz and Metallica.