The man who put pop art into pop rock is no more. Lou Reed founded the Velvet Underground in 1964—probably just a bit too early for his revolutionary glam-style of songwriting and performing. He persevered, and by the seventies the world caught up with him. Lou Reed has been mantled ever since with a lead role in the avant garde music movement. Loud Reed and the Velvet Underground were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Earlier this year Reed underwent a liver transplant at the Cleveland Clinic. His longtime liver disease was said to be related to his years of drug and alcohol abuse, although he had been apparently sober for the last several decades. His candor about his earlier life of self-destructive excess is part of his legend, part of his appeal, and might have been a harbinger of his passing.The AP is reporting today that the cause of his death was a “liver-related ailment.”
It’s not surprising that the toll of rock and roll indulgence might lead to the snuffing out of a light as bright as this one. It’s almost more surprising that the wounded rocking poet would endure so long, 71 years, unto the stature of wise maturity and elder-statesmanship. Lou Reed went places and saw things that are glossingly attractive from the outside, but he returned with warnings of poisoned glamour. We’re all wiser, maybe warier, from listening to Lou Reed’s music.
So thanks for that, Lou Reed. A lot more of us would die on the wild side, if you hadn’t told us just what that walk really costs.