Iconic rock star Lou Reed died Sunday, reported Rolling Stone, and although his cause of death wasn’t immediately released, it is thought that the 71-year-old succumbed to complications arising from a liver transplant he had earlier this year.
Reed, through his solo work, collaborations, and of course, The Velvet Underground, influenced untold hoards of young musicians over the past four decades, since VU’s first record, The Velvet Underground and Nico, was released in 1967.
A contemporary of Andy Warhol, David Bowie (“Queen Bitch” is allegedly an homage to Reed) and many other notables of the era, the punk/poet/noise-maker paved the way for all forms of modern alt rock music, from glam to grunge.
As we mourn the passing of a rock legend, here are some must-relish tunes and tomes devoted to Reed.
Rolling Stone obituary, Oct. 27.
With the Velvet Underground in the late Sixties, Reed fused street-level urgency with elements of European avant-garde music, 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.”
Andy Warhol’s screen test, 1966. (Cover music by Dean & Britta.)
German singer Nico joined The Velvet Underground (then produced by Warhol) and rounded out the group’s avant-garde sounds and looks.
ClashMusic.com has a list of 10 Things You Never Knew About Lou Reed. The best one:
The lyrics “But she never lost her head / Even when she was giving head” from 1972’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ weren’t banned by the BBC because the censors didn’t know what “giving head” meant.
“Satellite of Love” – classic. Listen to it and shed a tear.
While the most of the rock world was busy extolling the liberating possibilities of drugs and free love, Reed’s songs saw past the scene’s carefree facade to the nervous junkie waiting for his dealer on a Harlem street corner, the whip-wielding dominatrix in an underground dungeon, and the weary society girl crying alone in her room after the party had ended. The music was just as distinctive, ranging from the sweet, wistful folk-pop of “Sunday Morning” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror” to the propulsive Stonesy rock of “Run, Run, Run” and the ear-splitting dissonance of “European Son.” …
Though he boasted few chart hits, Reed’s career-long compulsion to test rock’s musical and formal boundaries opened up vast new avenues for later exploration by his many aspiring heirs. Reed was perhaps second only to Bob Dylan in his impact on rock and roll’s development as a genre that could accommodate, and in fact encourage, aspirations to high art and literature…
A long-lost performance: Three original members of The Velvet Underground (Reed, Nico and John Cale) reunited in Paris for a TV special in 1972. The tape was released in 2012 and features their performances of a number of classic VU songs.
The Mirror has a list of the 14 best Lou Reed quotes. My favorites:
“It’s depressing when you’re still around and your albums are out of print.”
“I tried to give up drugs by drinking.”
Cheers, Lou. Here’s to walking on the wild side. RIP.