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Velvet Underground Leader and Rock Icon Lou Reed Dead at Age 71

Velvet Underground leader and rock icon Lou Reed is dead at age 71. The influential guitarist and songwriter died today. The cause of his death has not yet been released, but Reed underwent a liver transplant in May. He leaves behind a legacy of lyrics and music that will be appreciated for many years to come. The news also seems to have crashed the server on his website, LouReed.com.

Lou Reed

Lou Reed

Lewis Allan “Lou” Reed was born in Brooklyn, in 1942. In the mid-Sixties, Reed and John Cale formed a band called the Primitives, which then soon after changed their name to the Warlocks. Later they met another guitarist named Sterling Morrison and a drummer Maureen Tucker. They began working together and then became the legendary Velvet Underground. The bands sound and style caught the attention of pop culture and artist Andy Warhol. Loving their music he incorporated the Velvets into his Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

Their debut was ‘produced’ by Warhol and released in early 1967, The Velvet Underground & Nico . The landmark album was met with disinterest from the critics, but today is considered one of the most important albums of it’s time. Reed’s heavy distorted guitar sound set the tone for the times in New York. By the end of their run, two of the bands biggest hits were Reed standards, “Rock & Roll” and “Sweet Jane.”

Velvet Underground was a mix of Glam, punk, and mainstream alternative rock. Lou Reeds style was minimalistic. He once famously said “One chord is fine, Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.” This seemed to serve him well because his sound is one that really hasn’t been duplicated.

Reed left the Underground in 1970. What followed was a solo debut backed by members of the progressive-rock band Yes. That album wasn’t his best, but did allow him to get his recording chops in order as a solo act. Feeling his creative stride, it was his next album, 1972’s Transformer produced by David Bowie, that broke the mold. “Walk On the Wild Side,” was on it, and became a radio hit. “Satellite of Love” was another hit off the same album and has been covered by U2 and others. Reed spent the Seventies defying pushing his art to it’s limits. The success of his previous records allowed him the freedom he wanted to explore different sounds and subject matter. Reed’s drug use and sexual lifestyle was fast and dangerous throughout the seventies.

The Eighties, were much different. His  music became ‘lighter’. He released a great album in 1982’s called The Blue Mask. In 1984 the album New Sensations and 1989’s New York seemed to be much less controversal and more mainstream, including critical praise. This would mark the end of his solo successes. Reed really wouldn’t return to rock ‘n’ roll until 2011’s LuluYou may have heard of it as he collaborated with Metallica to make it.

Thank you for every thing you have given us Lou, may you rest in peace.