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Rock Legend Lou Reed Dies At 71


Lou Reed (right) with his wife, artist and songwriter Laurie Anderson, in 2010.

Lou Reed (right) with his wife, artist and songwriter Laurie Anderson, in 2010.

Lou Reed, considered one of the most influential singer-songwriters in rock music history, has died at the age of 71.

Reed's literary agent Andrew Wylie said Reed died October 27 at his home in Southampton, New York, of an ailment related to his recent liver transplant.

Reed was married to the artist Laurie Anderson, his third wife.

Reed was a cofounder of the Velvet Underground, which became known for collaborations in New York City with the pop artist Andy Warhol.

Although the band never achieved great commercial success, it has been credited for revolutionizing rock in the 1960s and 70s by fusing art and music.

As a solo artist, Reed was known for pursuing experimental projects and for performing in sometimes provocative dress.

Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which gives out the Grammy honors, credited Reed with "introducing avant-garde rock to the mainstream."

The statement added: "His uniquely stripped-down style of guitar playing and poetic lyrics have had a massive influence across many rock genres, including punk and alternatives."

Reed, a hard drinker and drug user for many years, underwent a liver transplant this year.

He was a friend of the late former Czech President and Velvet Revolution leader Vaclav Havel.

Havel was one of a generation of former Czechoslovak and East Bloc dissidents and artists who would go on to cite the Velvet Underground as an inspiration.

Tributes from fellow musicians and celebrities began to pour in shortly after Reed’s death was announced.

Rock legend Iggy Pop said Reed’s death was “devastating news.” Tributes also came in from Salman Rushdie, Mia Farrow, Miley Cyrus, Samuel L. Jackson, and British rock group The Who.

Reed formed the Velvet Underground in the mid-1960s with John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and drummer Maureen Tucker.

At the suggestion of Warhol, the band recorded its first album with the German-born singer and model Nico. “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” featuring a distinctive print of a banana from Warhol, was released in 1967.

The band was inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

After the band’s fourth album was released, Reed left the Velvet Underground in 1970 to pursue a solo career.

He sang of people on the fringes of society – drag queens, drug addicts, and loners – yet framed many of his songs around universal questions of wrong and right or the quest for transcendence.

Reed is perhaps best known among mainstream audiences for his 1972 song, “Walk on the Wild Side,” his only single to ever enter America’s Top 20 songs of the week.

Reed’s stature as a performer and influence grew as the decades passed. He performed at the White House during a visit by Havel during the Clinton administration. “Rolling Stone” magazine has ranked the Velvet Underground’s first album as the 13th most influential album in rock history.

With reporting from AP and Reuters
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