NEW: Reed "influenced probably millions of people," former drummer says
Velvet Underground, "Walk on the Wild Side" singer/songwriter Lou Reed dies at 71
His music often tackled taboo topics like drug addiction and homosexuality
Reed said he wanted to speak to people through music like Shakespeare did in his works
Lou Reed, who took rock ‘n’ roll into dark corners as a songwriter, vocalist and guitarist for the Velvet Underground and as a solo artist, died Sunday, his publicist said. He was 71.
The publicist, Peter Noble, confirmed Reed’s death but released no details. Reed had undergone a liver transplant in May, his wife, the musician/performance artist Laurie Anderson, disclosed over the summer.
Reed was a rock pioneer who went from record label songwriter to a member of the short-lived but innovative and influential Velvet Underground. The band and Reed’s solo work tackled taboo topics like drug addiction, paranoia and sexual deviancy in songs that were largely spare, muscular and often saturated in feedback.
“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.
Reed, violist/keyboard player John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker played their first show as the Velvet Underground in 1965 and soon drew the attention of pop artist Andy Warhol, who became their manager. Rock mythology has it that even though the group sold few albums, everyone who bought one started a band.
“We had fans who made us realize it was worth it,” Tucker told CNN. “But when we were together, actively, we didn’t have a big splash like the Doors or whatever.”