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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

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.”