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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

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.”