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Lou Reed, Epitome of New York City Hipster Cool, Dies at 71 (video)

Lou Reed playing in a music festival in 2005 (Photo: Getty)

Lou Reed playing in a music festival in 2005 (Photo: Getty)

Lou Reed, who epitomized New York hipster cool as front man for Velvet Underground in the 1960s and later in a prolific solo career, died today (Oct. 27), possibly due to complications from a liver transplant in April. He was 71.

No details as to the cause of death have been released, although complications from the surgery landed him in the hospital in June.

Reed’s seminal hit, 1972’s “Walk on the Wild Side” became a classic and helped herald the beginning of the gay rights movement, sparked by the Stonewall riots following a 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village gay bar.

His music was a mix of free-form poetry, avant-garde music and often gritty lyrics. His second most iconic song, “Dirty Blvd,” from his 1989 album, New York, contrasted the differences between rich and poor in the teeming city. It was the No. 1 rock song for four weeks.

He said his goals as a musician were “to bring the sensitivities of the novel to rock music” or to write the Great American Novel in a record album.

The Velvet Underground had its roots in both punk and glam rock. Reed and Welsh musician John Cale, who had played with him in a band early on called “The Primitives,” formed the group in the mid-’60s with guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker.

While the band gained little traction commercially, it became a part of the New York City art scene after Andy Warhol included the band’s music in his exhibition, “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable.” Warhol, for a time managed the band.

His signature album during that time, The Velvet Underground & Nico compares in artistry with the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde, according to Rolling Stone.

The magazine said it was the 13th most influential album in rock and roll history.

By 1970, the Velvet Underground was largely history. Cale left the band in 1968 and Reed quit in 1970. The band continued with a new lineup until 1973. Over the years, the original band members reunited for tours.

In 1996, the Velvet Underground was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although Reed as a solo artist has been nominated twice but never inducted, although his solo work is among his most influential.

In April 2013, Reed underwent a liver transplant in Cleveland, which had deteriorated from years of drug and alcohol abuse. He claimed on his website to be back “bigger and stronger” than ever following the operation, but looked frail in pubic appearances.

Check out his seminal hit “Walk on the Wild Side” below and follow TheImproper on Twitter for the latest music news.


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