Singer Lou Reed dies at 71
This is an updated version of a story that first appeared Sunday, Oct. 27.
TORONTO — Singer-songwriter Lou Reed, renowned both for his solo work and for his band The Velvet Underground, died Sunday. He was 71.
The legendary artist’s death was first reported by Rolling Stone and confirmed by his literary agent.
Reed reportedly died of a liver-related ailment. He had undergone a liver transplant this past spring at the Mayo Clinic in Cleveland and, in a message posted on his website in June, he assured fans he was “bigger and stronger than ever.”
He wrote: “I am a triumph of modern medicine, physics and chemistry … 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.”
His wife, performance artist Laurie Anderson, told The Times in June that Reed “was dying” prior to the surgery.
“I don’t think he’ll ever totally recover from this, but he’ll certainly be back to doing [things] in a few months,” she said. “He’s already working and doing t’ai chi. I’m very happy. It’s a new life for him.”
Reed was photographed on Oct. 3 attending the New York City launch of Transformer, a book of photos of Reed taken by Mick Rock.
“My friend Lou Reed came to the end of his song,” wrote author Salman Rushdie on Twitter. “So very sad. But hey, Lou, you’ll always take a walk on the wild side. Always a perfect day.”
Born Lewis Allan Reed in Brooklyn, he developed an early interest in music. He taught himself guitar and played in a number of bands while in high school.
A message in his 1959 Freeport High School yearbook read: “As for the immediate future, Lou has no plans, but will take life as it comes.”
Reed studied journalism and film at Syracuse University and worked in radio before moving to New York City to work as a resident songwriter at Pickwick Records.
With musician John Cale, Reed co-founded The Velvet Underground, a band that failed to achieve commercial success but enjoyed a loyal following — largely thanks to the support of pop artist Andy Warhol — and is now recognized by many critics and fans as one of the most influential bands of all time.
Cale took to Facebook on Sunday. “The world has lost a fine songwriter and poet,” he wrote. “I’ve lost my ‘school-yard buddy.'”
In a statement released by Universal Music, Cale said: “The news I feared the most, pales in comparison to the lump in my throat and the hollow in my stomach.”
He wrote: “Two kids have a chance meeting and 47 years later we fight and love the same way — losing either one is incomprehensible. No replacement value, no digital or virtual fill…broken now, for all time. Unlike so many with similar stories — we have the best of our fury laid out on vinyl, for the world to catch a glimpse. The laughs we shared just a few weeks ago, will forever remind me of all that was good between us.”
The Velvet Underground’s best known songs were “Heroin” and “Sweet Jane” — the latter covered in 1989 by Canada’s Cowboy Junkies.
BELOW: WATCH CANADA’S COWBOY JUNKIES VERSION OF LOU REED’S “SWEET JANE”
Reed left The Velvet Underground in 1970.
The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Reed was nominated as a solo artist in 2000 and 2001 but was never inducted.
Reed signed a solo record deal in 1971 and his second release, Transformer, spawned the hit single “Walk on the Wild Side.”
BELOW: LISTEN TO LOU REED’S CLASSIC “WALK ON THE WILD SIDE”
He released 20 solo albums during his career and appeared on dozens of albums by other artists.
One of his last collaborations was with Canada’s Metric for the song “Wanderlust” from the 2012 album Synthetica.
BELOW: WATCH LOU REED PERFORM WITH CANADA’S METRIC:
His sole Grammy was in 1998, when Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart won for Best Long Form Video.
Social media reacted quickly to the news of Reed’s passing.
Paul Stanley of KISS opined Reed was “a musician, artist and trailblazer who played by his own rules.”
Actress and singer Juliette Lewis shared: “One of a kind magic street soul, who created a future and history. I’m sad.”
BELOW: WATCH LOU REED PERFORM “PALE BLUE EYES”
Rock band The Who tweeted: “R.I.P. Lou Reed. Walk on the peaceful side.” Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe wrote: “Thank you for your beautiful/dark lyrics/music and stance on life. You inspired me from my teenage years right up till today.”
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers wrote: “I love Lou reed so much. Always.”
Irish writer Kevin Breathnach tweeted: “I know it sounds crazy, but one day, perhaps many years from now, people will appreciate Lou Reed as his own age did not.”
Reed is survived by Anderson, whom he married in 2008. He was previously married to British designer Sylvia Morales.
“There’s only X amount of time,” Reed once said. “You can do whatever you want with that time. It’s your time.”
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