ADDENDUM 10/28: Dr. Charles Miller of the Cleveland Clinic, who treated Lou Reed’s liver condition, confirmed that the cause of death was liver disease, as the New York Times reported today.
Lou Reed, one of the most influential musicians of the rock & roll era, died Sunday morning. He was 71.
Best remembered for his contrarian attitudes, decadent rock-star lifestyle, unflinching lyricism and innovative musicianship, Reed first gained attention as co-founder with John Cale of the 60’s experimental rock act The Velvet Underground, after which he went on to have a long and equally influential solo career, often compared in influence with the likes of David Bowie and Iggy Pop. His music is widely considered to be a critical forerunner for the punk, alternative and glam rock movements.
For all his influence—and perhaps as proof of his status as pioneer—Lou Reed has the distinction of being one of the few rock icons with relatively little commercial recognition during his career. He never had a Top 10 in the U.S. (the closest he came was No. 16 for “Walk On the Wild Side,” off his Transformer LP in 1972). His only Grammy was won in 1999 for the music he supplied to his own documentary, Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart, and by the numbers, The Velvet Underground was a commercial failure. But as Brian Eno once noted in an interview, of the meager 30,000 records sold by The Velvet Underground in its first five years, “I think every one who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”
Reed underwent a liver transplant in May 2013, after which he declared he was “bigger and stronger than ever.”
News of Reed’s passing was quickly followed by an overflow of tribute and grief via social media, by fans and celebrities alike. Elijah Wood tweeted, “May you walk forever on the wild side, Lou Reed,” while Velvet Underground bandmate John Cale wrote on Facebook, “The world has lost a fine songwriter and poet—I’ve lost my ‘school-yard buddy.’”
RIP, Lou Reed. You will most certainly be missed.
R.I.P. Lou Reed. Just met at the GQ Awards. The music of my generation. Still Relevant!
— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) October 27, 2013
A sad day in music. RIP Lou. http://t.co/fLCnLeOvRG
— josh groban (@joshgroban) October 27, 2013
Lou reed, we lost a musical legend today, B’D’H
— alex clare (@alexanderclare) October 27, 2013