(NEW YORK) — Lou Reed, best known as the leader of the pioneering rock band The Velvet Underground and, later, for the solo hit “Walk on the Wild Side,” died on Sunday at age 71.
Reed’s publicist confirmed the death to ABC News Radio, though no cause of death was given. Reed underwent an apparently successful liver transplant last May; the operation forced him to cancel a series of California shows, as well as scheduled appearances at the Coachella festival. Reed said at the time, “I am a triumph of modern medicine, physics and chemistry. I am bigger and stronger than ever…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.”
Lou Reed started his music career as a staff songwriter for Pickwick Records. In the mid-sixties, he and John Cale started the band that would become the Velvet Underground. Artist Andy Warhol took the band under his wing and made them part of his art collective. He designed the cover of their first album, The Velvet Underground and Nico, and was also credited as a producer.
While the disc was ignored when it was released in 1967, it now stands as a landmark recording, depicting a seedy underworld of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll that was startling in its frankness and pioneering in its sound. The band’s subsequent recordings included songs now hailed as classics: “White Light/White Heat,” “Rock & Roll,” “Sweet Jane,” “I’m Waiting for the Man,” “Heroin” and others.
Reed’s solo career took off with the landmark album Transformer, in 1972. It featured “Walk on the Wild Side,” a depiction of the denizens of Warhol’s infamous “Factory,” and it became a hit despite its references to oral sex. Reed’s solo career varied wildly, as he created everything from noise rock, soul music, pop to straight ahead rock, though he continued to write about edgy topics like suicide, sex and drug addiction; he also incorporated social commentary into his work with albums like 1989’s New York. In 1991, he re-teamed with John Cale for Songs for Drella, a tribute to Warhol, and later in the nineties, the Velvet Underground reunited for some European shows.
Reed married performance artist Laurie Anderson, who he’d been with since the nineties, in 2008. He continued to release solo albums; in 2011, he unexpectedly collaborated with Metallica on the album Lulu.
In 1996, Reed was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Velvet Underground. He has yet to be inducted as a solo artist.
John Cale, Reed’s Velvet Underground bandmate, wrote on Facebook, “ usicians of every genre as well as other celebrities took to Twitter to talk about how Reed’s passing had impacted them. Here’s a roundup of some of their comments:
The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea: “I love Lou reed so much. Always”
Justin Timberlake: “#RIPLouReed”
KISS’ Paul Stanley: “RIP Lou Reed. A musician, artist and trailblazer who played by his own rules”
Samuel L. Jackson: “R.I.P. Lou Reed. Just met at the GQ Awards. The music of my generation. Still Relevant!”
Iggy Pop: “Devastating news”
Nikki Sixx: “RIP Lou Reed.Thank you for your beautiful/dark lyrics/music and stance on life.You inspired me from my teenage years right up till today.”
The Who: “R.I.P. Lou Reed. Walk on the peaceful side.”
Ricky Gervais: “RIP Lou Reed. One of the greatest artists of our time.”
Miley Cyrus: “noooooooooo notttttttttt LOU REED”
Girls creator Lena Dunaham: “We love you Lou. We love you Laurie.”
Olivia Wilde: “Damn. Lou Reed. Damn.”
Weezer: “R.I.P Lou Reed – VU was a big influence when weezer was being formed, and Ric Ocasek told us cool stories of his friendship with him.”
John Cusack: “Lou Reed RIP – always inspired by him – terrible news – only knew him through his art -a great – a singular poet -“
Josh Groban: “A sad day in music. RIP Lou.”
Russell Simmons: “RIP Lou Reed. New York lost one of our greatest gifts today…”
Elijah Wood: “May you forever walk on the wild side, Lou Reed. Terribly sad to hear of your passing.”
Colin Hanks: “Hey kids, although you should have done it earlier, it’s ok to check out Lou Reed. He was essential
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Kayla Nelson, Idaho State University Marketing and Communication
Brett Crandall, BYU-Idaho Communications