By Jonathan Allen and Daniel Trotta
NEW YORK, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Lou Reed, the pioneeringmusician who fronted influential rock band The VelvetUnderground and won mainstream acclaim with solo songs "Walk onthe Wild Side" and "Perfect Day", died on Sunday aged 71.
Reed, whose band fused music and art in collaboration withits early benefactor, pop artist Andy Warhol, died at the LongIsland home he shared with his wife, Laurie Anderson, followingcomplications from a liver transplant earlier this year, hisliterary agent Andrew Wylie said.
"I think Lou was as great an artist as it was possible tobe," Wylie said. "It's a great loss."
Formed by Reed and classically trained Welsh-born musicianJohn Cale in the mid-1960s as an experiment in avant-garde rock,The Velvet Underground gained Warhol's notice soon after hittingthe New York club scene.
While the band never achieved great commercial success, itrevolutionized rock in the 1960s and '70s with a mixture ofthrashing guitar licks and smooth melodies sung by Reed or theGerman model Nico.
The Velvet Underground has long been recognized as a majormusical inspiration for punk art and rock, as reflected in aquote often attributed to musician Brian Eno: "The first VelvetUnderground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone whobought it formed a band."
Neil Portnow, president the National Academy of RecordingArts and Sciences, which bestows the Grammys, credited Reed with"introducing avant-garde rock to the mainstream."
"His uniquely stripped-down style of guitar playing andpoetic lyrics have had a massive influence across many rockgenres, including punk and alternatives," Portnow said.
Fellow avant-garde rocker David Bowie, who helped produceReed's second solo album and is often cited as one of hisgreatest musical heirs, posted a picture of the two recordingstars together on his Facebook page, saying of his old friend:"He was a master."
Cale, who played bass, organ and viola in the Velvets andhad an often-fractious relationship with Reed, said on hisFacebook page: "The world has lost a fine songwriter and poet... I've lost my 'school-yard buddy,'" he said.
Reed and Cale put aside their differences to release atribute album to Warhol in 1990 called "Songs for Drella." Thatalbum led to a handful of reunion performances by members of TheVelvet Underground's original line-up - rounded out by guitaristSterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker - in the early1990s.
Musician Iggy Pop's official Twitter account called news ofReed's death "devastating," while musician Kim Gordon of SonicYouth tweeted: "So sorry to hear of Lou Reed's passing this is ahuge shock!"
An admitted hard drinker and drug user for many years, Reedunderwent a liver transplant earlier this year in Cleveland, hiswife revealed, after he had canceled a series of Californiaconcert dates in April.
"I am a triumph of modern medicine," Reed posted on hiswebsite on June 1, 2013, without directly acknowledging thetransplant. "I look forward to being on stage performing, andwriting more songs to connect with your hearts and spirits andthe universe well into the future."
LYRICS THAT SHOCKED
Reed has been widely credited with expanding the lexicon ofrock 'n' roll with provocative lyrics that chronicled androgyny,illicit sex, and drug abuse, notably in the song "Heroin," inwhich he declares, "It's my wife, and it's my life."
"Walk on the Wild Side," a catchy tune from his second soloalbum, "Transformer," co-produced by Bowie, became Reed's onlytop-20 hit single, though it contained lyrical references totransexuality, drugs and male prostitution.
"Sister Ray" - a 17-minute blast of guitar distortions -likewise combined stories of sailors, oral sex, murder,intravenous drug use and the mysterious title character.
"I never in a million years thought people would be outragedby what I was doing," Reed said in a 1989 interview with RollingStone magazine. "You could go to your neighborhood bookstore andget any of that."
One of his signature songs, first performed by The VelvetUnderground and later a staple of his solo act, was simplytitled "Rock and Roll," a semi-autobiographical story of howmusic saved the life of a young fan listening on the radio.
His stage persona, often appearing in a dog collar and eyemakeup, opened the door for Bowie and other artists to takesexually ambivalent styles into the mainstream.
It was personified in the landmark live album "Rock N RollAnimal," released in 1974. That record closely followed thestudio-record rock opera album "Berlin," which he brought tolife again with a 2006 concert that was made into a 2007 filmdirected by Julian Schnabel.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 as amember of The Velvet Underground, Reed grew into something of anelder statesman of rock, a towering figure in a club with fellowlegends such as Bob Dylan and Neil Young.
Reed always placed great importance on song-writing. One ofhis first jobs out of college was as a staff writer for PickwickRecords. He dedicated the 1966 song "European Son" to the latepoet, Delmore Schwartz, under whom he studied at SyracuseUniversity.
Reed was married three times, the latest to recording andperformance artist Laurie Anderson in 2008, and in recent yearstook an interest in photography, staging exhibitions of hiswork.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Lou Reed
- Andy Warhol
- Velvet Underground
- Laurie Anderson