Warhol superstar and protégée Lou Reed has died in New York age 71. It is thought that the cause of his death was due to complications with a liver transplant undergone in May.
Reed was the lead singer and a founding member of the influential band the Velvet Underground, in the late Sixties. He fused a street-level rawness with European avant-garde music. Rolling Stone said, “marrying beauty and noise, while bringing a whole new lyrical honesty to rock & roll poetry. As a restlessly inventive solo artist, from the Seventies into the 2010s, he was chameleonic, thorny and unpredictable, challenging his fans at every turn. Glam, punk and alternative rock are all unthinkable without his revelatory example. “One chord is fine,” he once said, alluding to his bare-bones guitar style. “Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.”
Born Lewis Allan in Brooklyn, in 1942 he studied at Syracuse University with the poet Delmore Schwartz, before taking the name Lou Reed as a stage name. He worked as a staff songwriter for the Pickwick Record label, but In the mid-Sixties, Reed met his match in the Welsh musician John Cale, later forming a band called the Primitives along with him. After being introduced to the guitarist Sterling Morrison and the drummer Maureen Tucker, they changed their name to the Velvet Underground. The band caught the attentions of Pop Artist Andy Warhol and were asked to merge music into art with Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable project. “Andy would show his movies on us,” Reed said. “We wore black so you could see the movie. But we were all wearing black anyway.”
Warhol produced the band’s first album, which got a cold response from both critics and the public when it was released in 1967. The Velvet Underground’s debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico is now considered one of the most influential albums of the period along with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, by the Beatles. David Bowie later produced a solo album for Reed that went on to become a commercial success in the 1970’s and he was inducted into the Rock n Roll hall of fame in 1996, with the others from the Velvet Underground. Since 2008 Reed had been married to the artist/musician Laurie Anderson, who survives him.