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Passings: Lou Reed (1942 - 2013)

Lou Reed, one of rock's most enigmatic and influential artists, died on Sunday at the age of 71.  No reason for his death has been announced; however, he had received a liver transplant back in May.

Reed taught himself to play guitar while growing up in Freeport, Long Island and played in a number of bands while in high school.  In the early-60's, he went to Syracuse University to study journalism, film directing and creative writing.

After graduating, Reed worked as a songwriter for Pickwick Records and became friends with John Cale. The two would eventually become roommates on New York's lower east side and recruited Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker to join them in the group the Velvet Underground.

The band became friends with Andy Warhol who influenced them to collaborate with European singer Nico. Their debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico only made it to 171 on the Billboard charts but has gone on to become recognized as on of the most influential in rock history.

By the time the band recorded their second album, White Light/White Heat, Nico was gone and Warhol had been fired, creating a rift between Reed and Cale.  Cale was out soon thereafter and the band brought in Doug Yule as a replacement.  Their new sound was a bit more pop-oriented and they recorded two more albums (The Velvet Underground and Loaded) before Reed left the group for a solo career.

Reed signed with RCA in 1971 and, although his first, self titled, album was mostly overlooked, he scored with his second, 1972's Transformer. The album, produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, contained what is probably Reed's best known song, Walk on the Wild Side.

He followed in 1973 with the now classic Berlin and, in 1974, with his only top ten album, Sally Can't Dance before releasing his most commercially successful album, the live Rock 'n' Roll Animal.

In 1975, Reed released one of the most controversial albums of the last fifty years, Metal Machine Music. The double-LP was comprised of mostly audio feedback and, although Reed always contended that it was a work of art, most critics and fans were turned off by what they saw as noise.

Reed recorded one more album for RCA, Coney Island Baby, before moving to Arista where he recorded four albums, all of which made the charts. During the 80's, he returned to RCA for four additional LPs before signing with Sire in 1989.

Lou also started to become more politically active during the 80's, playing at the very first Farm Aid and joining the Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope Tour.

Reed and Cale patched up their differences after the death of Warhol to record the 1990 album Songs For Drella. In the same year, they launched a Velvet Underground reunion for a benefit in France followed by 1993 tour of Europe that ended before the North American leg with the two once again had a falling out.

Post-1990's Songs For Drella, Reed would only release five more solo albums plus his 2011 critically drubbed collaboration with Metallica, Lulu. He and Laurie Anderson have been both professionally and romantically involved since the late-90's and married on April 12, 2008.

Lou and the other members of the Velvet Underground were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. He has since been nominated twice as a solo artist but has not been selected.


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