Legendary rock artist Lou Reed, who took the music into dark areas as a songwriter, vocalist and guitarist for the Velvet Underground and in a long solo career, has died at the age of 71.
His publicist Peter Noble confirmed Reed’s death but released no details. He had undergone a liver transplant earlier this year, according to his wife, said reports.
Reed was a pioneer dating back to the 1960s, and leader of the enormously influential Velvet Underground, which tackled taboo topics like drug addiction and sexual deviancy.
“Lou Reed’s influence is one that there are really only a tiny handful of other figures who you can compare to him,” said Simon Vozick-Levinson, a senior editor at Rolling Stone.
“He spoke incredibly frankly about the realities of being an artist, being a person who lived life on one’s own terms. He didn’t prettify things. He didn’t sugarcoat things. He showed life as it really is and that’s something that made him a true original, and one of our great all-time artists,” he said.
The Velvet Underground drew the attention of Andy Warhol, who became their manager.
Rolling Stone magazine ranked the group’s debut album “The Velvet Underground and Nico” as the 13th greatest album of all time. The album’s cover featured Andy Warhol’s famed banana painting.
Tunes such as “Sweet Jane” became rock standards, and countless artists and groups counted them as inspirational.
The Velvet Underground was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Reed left the group in 1970 for a long solo career. His most well-known solo song was “Walk on the Wild Side”.
He also gave a voice to gay and transgender people in ways that had never been done before by a popular artist.
In a 1982 interview with the New York Times, Reed said his goal wasn’t just to make music, but to create literature, to speak to people the way Shakespeare does.