Skip to content

Lou Reed

Full Name Lewis Allan Reed
Born March 2, 1942, Brooklyn, New York
Died October 27, 2013 (aged 71)
Genre Rock, Proto-Punk, Experimental
Spouse Sylvia Morales (1980–1994), Laurie Anderson (2008-2013)
Social Profiles Twitter, Facebook

The legendary American musician, singer, songwriter and poet, Lewis Allan Reed, was one of the most influential rock artists of the 20th century. Reed was best known as the frontman and principal songwriter for the highly impactful rock band The Velvet Underground as well as for his successful solo career spanning several decades.

Early Life and Musical Influences

Reed was born in Brooklyn in 1942 and grew up on Long Island. As a child, he learned to play guitar and developed a love for rock and roll by listening to early pioneers like Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Reed‘s creative instincts were shaped by his literary interests and his studies under poet Delmore Schwartz at Syracuse University. He hosted a university radio show where he could play his eclectic musical favorites.

The Velvet Underground Years

In 1964, Reed moved to New York City and worked as a songwriter, during which he met classically-trained musician John Cale. Reed and Cale formed The Velvet Underground in 1965, joined by Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker. The band became icons of the artistic subculture in ‘60s New York, associated with Andy Warhol. Their raw, gritty sound was considered revolutionary. Reed‘s poetic yet transgressive lyrics explored taboo topics that spoke to the darker realities of the era.

Solo Career and Notable Collaborations

After leaving The Velvet Underground in 1970, Reed embarked on an influential solo career marked by artistic experimentation. His hit 1972 album Transformer, produced by David Bowie, showcased his adept lyricism in songs like "Walk on the Wild Side". In the late ‘70s, he released the chilling album Berlin. He collaborated with many other artists over the years including Nico, Metallica, Gorillaz and The Killers. His eclectic body of work cemented his stature as an avantgarde musician.

Personal Life and Relationships

Reed led a turbulent personal life marked by drug abuse and bisexuality. He was married to Sylvia Morales from 1980 to 1994. In 2008, he married avant-garde musician Laurie Anderson. Reed openly spoke about his various addictions and health problems. He was treated for hepatitis and liver failure later in life, eventually undergoing a liver transplant in 2013.

Musical Legacy and Influence

Lou Reed‘s unique guitar playing techniques, lyrical genius and ability to fuse artistic styles made him one of rock history‘s most influential musicians. He paved the way for punk rock, alternative rock and indie artists. Reed died in 2013 at age 71, but his legacy lives on through the countless musicians he has inspired, from The Sex Pistols to Patti Smith to U2. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, exemplifying his immense contribution to modern music.