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Lou Reed Dies at 71


Lou Reed, the singer-songwriter whose darkly poetic recordings as frontman for the Velvet Underground and as a solo artist provided indispensable blueprints for punk, glam, noise rock and nearly every identifiable strain of indie rock, died on October 27. He was 71. The cause of Reed’s death, first reported by Rolling Stone, is still unknown. However, Reed received a liver transplant in May of this year, and in July he was hospitalized for severe dehydration.


Though he boasted few chart hits, Reed’s career-long compulsion to test rock’s musical and formal boundaries opened up vast new avenues for later exploration by his many aspiring heirs. Reed was perhaps second only to Bob Dylan in his impact on rock and roll’s development as a genre that could accommodate, and in fact encourage, aspirations to high art and literature. The Velvet Underground (after a salacious paperback detailing New York’s aberrant sex subcultures) they were soon joined by Reed’s college friend Sterling Morrison on guitar and Maureen “Moe” Tucker on drums. Over time, the group fell into the orbit of Andy Warhol, who became their manager and featured them in his Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia happenings. He also convinced the group – against Reed’s wishes – to include German model-actress Nico as an occasional vocalist.

The quintet eventually recorded its first album, titled “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” which was released on Polydor in 1967 after multiple delays. For the follow-up, however, Reed turned to acolyte David Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson as producers, and 1972’s “Transformer” became Reed’s first certifiable hit. Buoyed by smash rock radio single “Walk on the Wild Side,” the album broke into the Top 40 of the Billboard album chart and finally established Reed’s name among mainstream record-buyers. It also added “Satellite of Love” and the transcendent orchestral epic “Perfect Day” to his canon of classic material.