Lou Reed, the massively influential songwriter whose music laid the groundwork for thousands of artists after him, died this Sunday at his home in Long Island. The cause of death is not yet known, but it is believed that complications from Reed’s liver transplant in May were a part of the cause.
Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, Reed had a passion for doo-wop and rock ‘n’ roll early on in life. After attending Syracuse University, he took a job as a songwriter for Pickwick Records in 1964. While assembling an ad-hoc band to perform his novelty song “The Ostrich,” Lou met John Cale, who was impressed with the catalog of songs Reed had written on his own. Together, they started what would eventually become The Velvet Underground and released their first album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, in 1967. Helped by the patronage of pop artist Andy Warhol, the Velvets’ debut became an underground hit, though it failed to gain any commercial success. The band would release three more albums-White Light/White Heat, The Velvet Underground, and Loaded-before Reed quit the band in 1970 to pursue a solo career.
As a solo artist, Reed found the success that eluded him with the Velvet Underground when David Bowie and Mick Ronson offered to produce Reed’s second solo album. That album, Transformer, brought Reed to a wider audience thanks to his association with his longtime admirer. The album also gave Reed his lone Top 40 hit in “Walk On The Wild Side,” a bouncy ode to the movers and shakers of Warhol’s Factory. After Transformer‘s success, Reed embarked on a 40-year solo career with plenty of highs (New York, Coney Island Baby, The Blue Mask), lows (Sally Can’t Dance, one of Reed’s most successful albums that he later admitted to hating) and curveballs (Metal Machine Music).
Reed is survived by his wife Laurie Anderson. In a statement issued to the press, Reed’s former bandmate John Cale said that “the news I feared the most pales in comparison to the lump in my throat and the hollow in my stomach…unlike so many 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.”