‘A Genius Who Transcended Rock’
Musician and guitarist Lou Reed, the front-man for the band Velvet Underground, as well as a solo artist, died Sunday, Oct. 27.
Reed, who was born to a Jewish family, was 71.
He had a liver transplant last year after years of alcohol and drug abuse. A cause of death was not made public.
Reed, born Lewis Allan Reed in Brooklyn, N.Y., became influential in rock by blending art and music in New York in the 1960s through Velvet Underground’s collaboration with pop artist Andy Warhol. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. Reed’s vocals were featured on Velvet Underground hits such as “Sweet Jane,” “Venus in Furs,” “Oh! Sweet Nuthin,’” among others.
Reed quit the band in 1970 and focused on his solo career, which featured the 1972 hit song “Walk on the Wild Side.”
Randallstown resident and owner of Larry’s Record Shop Larry Kessler remembers Reed as a laid-back, underground and mysterious figure. He played bass in The Godz, a punk band that was coming up in Greenwich Village the same time as the Velvet Underground.
“I realize now how culturally big he was,” Kessler said. “So many bands were influenced by him … like The Ramones were influenced by him I’m sure, that kind of freedom he had in his music.”
Reed visited Israel five years ago with his musician wife, Laurie Anderson, during her world tour. He reportedly was coy about his Jewish roots. He was quoted as saying, “My God is rock ’n’ roll” and “The most important part of my religion is to play guitar.”
In 2004, Reed read a poem he wrote called “The Raven,” based on the Edgar Allan Poe classic, at the Downtown Seder. He also took part in last year’s Downtown Seder in New York City. The unique Passover event features artists, political figures, writers, poets, comedians and more.
Jewish stars such as Bette Midler, Richard Lewis and Judd Apatow, in addition to scores of musicians, tweeted about Reed’s death and praised him highly.
“Lou Reed, my friend, a genius who transcended rock,” Lewis tweeted. “My condolences to his family. A poet [first], he performed like a hit-man on a mission. RIP.”
Between Sunday night and Monday morning, streams of songs by Reed and the Velvet Underground increased by more than 3,000 percent on streaming service Spotify, according to reports.
Sunday night, numerous bands paid tribute to the late singer. Pearl Jam front-man Eddie Vedder said it was a “rough day,” and the band dedicated one of its songs to him, and covered Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting For The Man” at its Baltimore show. Tributes were also performed by The Black Crowes, Phish, Gov’t Mule and My Morning Jacket with Neil Young and Elvis Costello.
JTA Wire Service contributed to this article.