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Lou Reed dies at 71, months after liver transplant

Exact cause of death of influential songwriter has not yet been released.

Lou Reed performing in Chicago in 2009.
Lou Reed performing in Chicago in 2009.
Image: AP Photo/John Smierciak

ROCKER LOU REED has died at the age of 71, just five months after undergoing a liver transplant.

Reed – who found fame with the Velvet Underground – became a rock icon with his solo album Transformer in 1972.

Rolling Stone magazine today called him “a restlessly inventive solo artist… chameleonic, thorny and unpredictable, challenging his fans at every turn”.

Reed was born in Brooklyn and brought up in Long Island, New York. He started his career in music as a songwriter at Pickwick Records – it was there he met John Cale with whom he later formed the Velvet Underground. Another cultural icon of his generation, Andy Warhol, was to become their manager.

While their albums didn’t sell particularly well, songs like the dystopian Heroin was to signal an unusual and provocative musical talent. Songs like Sweet Jane and Rock and Roll on the album Loaded were Reed’s compositions and hinted at the success he would have as a solo artist.

His second solo album, Transformer, released in 1972, was produced by David Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson – it spawned hits that became rock ‘n’ roll classics such as Perfect Day and Walk on the Wild Side.

Reed’s career embraced huge diversity – from concept albums like Metal Machine Music – to his most recent, a collaboration with Metallica in 2011. His irascible, frequently irritable personality, softened in later years but his influence on a generation of rock artists never waned with as many cover versions of Reed hits than Reed hits themselves.

He kicked a drug habit in the early 1980s and is survived by his second wife Laurie Anderson.

This multi-artist cover of Perfect Day for the 1997 BBC Children in Need event is led off by Reed himself:

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Or you might prefer this performance of Sweet Jane, with Reed centre stage:

This Rolling Stone cover story on Reed from 1989 by David Fricke might be worth a re-read this evening>

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