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

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."