LOU Reed, the Velvet Underground frontman and pioneer of punk and alternative rock, whose songs included Perfect Day, Satellite of Love and Walk On The Wild Side, has died. He was 71.
Famed for his truculent manner and stripped-down style of music, Reed inspired a generation of bands and once said: “one chord is fine, two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz”.
The cause of the musician’s death has not yet been confirmed but he underwent a liver transplant in May and his literary agent said his death was due to a liver-related ailment.
His wife, the composer Laurie Anderson, said at the time: “He was dying. I don’t think he’ll ever totally recover.”
However, Reed later declared on his website in June: “I am a triumph of modern medicine. 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.”
The news was broken by Rolling Stone magazine, which reported his death on its website but did not give any details.
On Sunday night, Andy Woollis Croft, his British agent confirmed the news and said: “Yes, I’m afraid it’s true. I’m very upset.”
Lewis Allan Reed was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1942. After studying at Syracuse University, he joined the roster of Pickwick Records in New York as a songwriter.
In the mid-1960s, he founded bands such as the Primitives, which later became the Warlocks.
After meeting Sterling Morrison, a guitarist and the drummer Maureen Tucker, Reed and his friend and the Welsh musician John Cale formed the Velvet Underground, whose distinctive dystopian look and sound caught the attention of Andy Warhol who produced their first album, The Velvet Underground and Nico.
Yesterday, Rolling Stone said the album “stood as a landmark on par with The Beatles’ Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde”.
The band’s songs painted a seedy portrait of New York’s bohemian scene, with songs about heroin, S&M and transsexual prostitutes while the sound went on to influence countless bands.
The Velvet Underground released three more albums before breaking up in 1970, after which Reed moved from New York to London, where he worked on his first solo album, Transformer, which was produced by David Bowie.
During his career, Reed also nurtured a long addiction to heroin. He once wrote a song called Heroin but, as was his manner, insisted it was not actually about the drug. He said in an interview: “My bullsh*t is worth more than other people’s diamonds.”
He married Sylvia Morales but divorced in the early 1990s, after which he began a relationship with the musician and performance artist Anderson, whom he married in 2008.
As with manyof his ilk, he mellowed as he grew older and embraced the art of Tai Chi.
In 1987, he told Rolling Stone magazine that his collective work was the equivalent of a great work of literature.
“All through this, I’ve always thought that if you thought of all of it as a book then you have the Great American Novel, every record as a chapter. They’re all in chronological order. You take the whole thing, stack it and listen to it, there’s my Great American Novel.”
Yesterday, Irvine Welsh tweeted: “Sad to hear about Lou Reed passing. Such a star. RIP Lou. Thanks for giving us Perfect Day for Trainspotting.”
Neil Gaiman, the novelist wrote: “Goodnight Lou Reed. You beautiful prickly bastard. Thank you for the glorious songs and conversations … I interviewed him once. Dined with him too. His music was/is more important to who I am than pretty much anything else. Tearing up.”