Lou Reed Remembered – The music world paid tribute to Lou Reed this morning, following news of his death last night. The Velvet Underground frontman died of a liver-related ailment yesterday morning in his Long Island home, aged 71. The singer’s literary agent, Andrew Wylie, confirmed that Reed had not been well “for a few months”.
David Bowie celebrated the life of his friend on his Facebook page, writing: “He was a master.” Iggy Pop described the news as “devastating”, while Reed’s former bandmate, John Cale, wrote on his website how, “the world has lost a fine songwriter and poet… I’ve lost my school-yard buddy.”
Although The Velvet Underground – managed by Andy Warhol – never achieved great commercial success, its influence on the music industry was enduring. Musician Brian Eno summarised their impact: “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.”
In 1970, he left the band and went to work for his father’s accounting firm and maintained a low-profile, until he launched a solo career. It was his second solo album – Transformer, co-produced by David Bowie – that put him back on the music map, with tracks including Walk on the Wild Side, Satellite of Love and Perfect Day.
“Transformer was the soundtrack to my becoming interested in fashion and boys, as it probably was for 95 per cent of my age group,” said Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman this morning. “Lou Reed’s brilliant lyrics and music on that album and many others, (Perfect Day, Coney Island Baby, Satellite of Love, Walk on the Wild Side), combined a glamorous exoticism, bravado sexuality and an edgy romance that was as captivating and amorphous as a rainbow to a London teenager. I’ve been a fan ever since and it’s very sad to see one of one’s cultural heroes leave the scene forever.”
Under Bowie’s watch, Reed’s style was dominated by the glam-rock period – he dyed his dark hair bleach blonde and painted his nails black. However, he was more instantly recognisable in his loose leather biker jacket, jeans and dark sunglasses, which he wore at all times – whether indoors or not.
A heavy drink and drug user, Reed eventually overcame his addictions but became ill with liver failure this year and underwent a transplant in May. “I am a triumph of modern medicine,” he posted on his website in June.