News / Arts & Entertainment

American Rock Pioneer Lou Reed Dead at 71

American Rock Pioneer Lou Reed Dead at 71i
X
October 28, 2013 6:02 AM
Influential American rock musician Lou Reed, the widely acknowledged poet laureate of the dark, hard-edged genre known as punk rock, has died in New York.
Richard Paul
Singer Lou Reed, front man of the 1960s band “The Velvet Underground” has died.  

There is a difference in show business between being popular and being influential.  Lou Reed was certainly one but not the other.  Mark Jenkins, a music writer for the Washington Post, pointed out that while Reed recorded many albums during the peak of his career, none of them sold very well.

Richard Paul's Lou Reed Obit
Richard Paul's Lou Reed Obiti
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

"By and large they weren't played on the radio," he added." But they contained songs that are now very well-known."
 
With his complex, journalistic lyrics and his intimate style of singing, Reed and the Velvet Underground had a  greater impact than other bands of the era who were much more financially successful.

“The people who listened to them turned out to be people like David Bowie, Brian Eno, Patty Smith, Talking Heads and so forth,” Jenkins noted.

Reed was born on New York’s Long Island.  He started playing guitar at age 10.  At Syracuse University he studied with poet Delmore Schwartz, a man novelist Saul Bellow once called, “The Mozart of conversation.”  In a 1998 PBS documentary, Reed talked about the impact Schwartz had on his writing.

“There was an example of how the simplest language imaginable -- very short -- you could accomplish the most astonishing height of art,” Reed said.

After college, Reed moved to New York City he and a string instrumentalist named John Cale took to singing on the street in Harlem.  In 1965 they teamed up with Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker to form the "The Velvet Underground."  At exactly that time, Andy Warhol was looking for a band to play in a multimedia installation he was creating.  When he heard the Velvet Underground, he knew he had found what he was looking for.

Their association with Warhol made the Velvets the darlings of the New York art world, but it was after they broke away from him that they had their greatest impact.  The music world was changing in the mid-1970s and the loud, angry, cynical, feedback-laden music they played would come to influence a generation of younger musicians.  

“The very first record that pointed me in the direction of punk rock was the first Velvet Underground, ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico.’  I'd never heard anything like it,” confided Steve Hansgen, the bass player for the influential “Straight Edge” punk band Minor Threat.

“The song ‘Run, Run, Run’ off the first Velvet Underground album is very pounding, very punk rock, very distorted," Hansgen said.

That song, he added, made a distinct impression on him and his bandmates as they got ready to record the song that gave Minor Threat its name.  

“I know that Lyle Pressler, the guitar player in Minor Threat who wrote that song, was definitely very influenced by Velvet Underground,” he said.

Jenkins said Hansgen’s experience was not an isolated one.

“The songs were simple but the sound was complex.  And that was an influence on punk rock,” he explained.

Throughout his career, Lou Reed cultivated an attitude and a series of characters.  He was thought by many to be gay, though he was married to three different women through his life.  He was also thought to be a heavy drug user.  But Jenkins said the reputation was not his real life.

“I know he sang about heroin, he sang about amphetamines, but my impression is that he really took a lot more alcohol than opiates," the writer said. "And that may explain the liver damage.”

And it was liver damage that finally - on October 27 - brought an end to Reed’s life and to his broad and influential career.

This tweet from Reed's account is widely believed to have been a veiled announcement of his passing:


You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Markt
October 28, 2013 7:12 AM
You know you're getting old when you are saddened at the passing of a rock pioneer, and a younger person says; "who?" I was never a big fan or Lou, but I'm sorry he's gone now. All the good ones are going away, or have gone away. Music, and the world will never be the same with those voices forever stilled except what is left on recorded material.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”