One of the most legendary musicians in history passed away on Sunday. At the age of 71, the massively influential rock musician Lou Reed sadly died in Southampton, N.Y. of an ailment related to a liver transplant he underwent in May.
Reed’s band, Velvet Underground, created an avant-garde form of rock that was the major influence behind bands like R.E.M, the Sex Pistols, Talking Heads, and U2. The progenitor of art rock and punk rock, Reed’s convention defying experimentation with raw, poetic lyrics and simple chords created a unique sound that had a far reaching effect in the music industry. While Velvet Underground sold only 30,000 copies of its debut album in its first five years, music producer Brian Eno stated that, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”
Reed had a troubled life early on. Concerned about his homosexual tendencies, his parents sent him to undergo electroconvulsive therapy to cure him of his sexuality the age of 17 – an experience that haunted him for many years. This was documented in his song ‘Kill Your Sons’, where he wrote: “All your two-bit psychiatrists / Are giving you electroshock / They said they’d let you live at home with mom and dad / Instead of mental hospitals / But every time you tried to read a book / You couldn’t get to page seventeen / Cos you forgot where you were / So you couldn’t even read.”
Reed also used alcohol and heavy drugs frequently. “Heroin”, written in 1964, and released with the Velvet Underground in 1967 had the lyrics: “Heroin, be the death of me/Heroin, it’s my wife and it’s my life.” In 1980 however, Reed renounced drugs and got married (three times). Never one to let his personal life affect his search for ‘the perfect sound’, Reed continued to make provocative, pioneering music that incredibly spanned over 40 years.
“The music is all,” said Reed once. “People should die for it. People are dying for everything else, so why not the music?”
Here are 6 of Reed’s most amazing live performances over the years:
Lou Reed performing Sweet Jane in Paris, 1974
Lou Reed performing ‘Cold Black Sea’ live in studio for ABC In Concert, 1992
Lou playing with Velvet Underground performing “Heroin.” (Footage is from Andy Warhol’s “Symphony of Sound”)
Lou Reed performing “Walk On The Wild Side” in the Hard Rock Cafe, 1997
Lou Reed performing “Perfect Day”, live At Montreux, 2000
Lou Reed performing “Caroline Says” on David Letterman
Reed is survived by his third wife, performance artist Laurie Anderson.
As commenter Tom Ensey writes on YouTube:
Rest In Peace, Lou.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.