Rocker Lou Reed of Velvet Underground dies at 71

Mon Oct 28, 2013 4:07am EDT
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By Jonathan Allen and Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lou Reed, the pioneering musician who fronted influential rock band The Velvet Underground and won mainstream acclaim with solo songs "Walk on the Wild Side" and "Perfect Day", died on Sunday aged 71.

Reed, whose band fused music and art in collaboration with its early benefactor, pop artist Andy Warhol, died at the Long Island home he shared with his wife, Laurie Anderson, following complications from a liver transplant earlier this year, his literary agent Andrew Wylie said.

"I think Lou was as great an artist as it was possible to be," Wylie said. "It's a great loss."

Formed by Reed and classically trained Welsh-born musician John Cale in the mid-1960s as an experiment in avant-garde rock, The Velvet Underground gained Warhol's notice soon after hitting the New York club scene.

While the band never achieved great commercial success, it revolutionized rock in the 1960s and '70s with a mixture of thrashing guitar licks and smooth melodies sung by Reed or the German model Nico.

The Velvet Underground has long been recognized as a major musical inspiration for punk art and rock, as reflected in a quote often attributed to musician Brian Eno: "The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band."

Neil Portnow, president the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which bestows the Grammys, credited Reed with "introducing avant-garde rock to the mainstream."

"His uniquely stripped-down style of guitar playing and poetic lyrics have had a massive influence across many rock genres, including punk and alternatives," Portnow said.   Continued...

U.S. musician Lou Reed plays the guitar during his concert in Santiago de Compostela in this July 16, 2004 file photograph. REUTERS/Miguel Vidal/Files