"Lou Reed, 71, a massively influential songwriter and guitarist who helped shape nearly fifty years of rock music, died today [at his home in Southampton, on Long Island, New York]" writes Jon Dolan on the Rolling Stone website.
"The cause was liver disease, said Dr. Charles Miller of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where Mr. Reed had liver transplant surgery earlier this year and was being treated again until a few days ago," according to The New York Times.
Says Dolan in his Rolling Stone obituary, "With the Velvet Underground in the late Sixties, Reed fused street-level urgency with elements of European avant-garde music, marrying beauty and noise, while bringing a whole new lyrical honesty to rock & roll poetry. As a restlessly inventive solo artist, from the Seventies into the 2010s, he was chameleonic, thorny and unpredictable, challenging his fans at every turn. Glam, punk and alternative rock are all unthinkable without his revelatory example. "
Dolan adds that the Velvet Underground’s first album, "The Velvet Underground and Nico," while "met with total commercial indifference when it was released in early 1967, stands as a landmark on par with the Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Blonde On Blonde.’ Reed’s matter-of-fact descriptions of New York’s bohemian demimonde, rife with allusions to drugs and S&M, pushed beyond even the Rolling Stones’ darkest moments, while the heavy doses of distortion and noise for its own sake revolutionized rock guitar. The band’s three subsequent albums … were similarly ignored. But they’d be embraced by future generations, cementing the Velvet Underground’s status as the most influential American rock band of all time."
Indeed, The New York Times’ estimable music critic Jon Pareles once called Reed "punk-rock’s godfather."
According to urban myth, Brian Eno supposedly said about the first Velvet Underground LP: "It only sold a few thousand copies, but everyone who bought one started a band." In fact, after its first two years the LP had sold about 60,000 copies.
In 1972, Reed released what was to be his most popular song, "Walk on the Wild Side."
According to The Times, "Mr. Reed is survived by his wife, the composer and performance artist Laurie Anderson. Dr. Miller said Mr. Reed decided to return to New York after the doctors could no longer treat his end-stage liver disease. ‘He died peacefully, with his loved ones around him,’ Dr. Miller said."
Here’s Reed singing "Walk on the Wild Side" years ago on Letterman: