Rock pioneer Lou Reed dies at 71

Founder member of 1960s avant-garde rock band The Velvet Underground has died

Lou Reed, influential rock musician and founder member of The Velvet Underground, has died aged 71.

His literary agent, Andrew Wylie, confirmed that he died of a liver-related ailment this morning in Southampton, New York.

“He was as great an artist as it’s possible to be in my opinion,” Mr Wylie said

Reed had a profound impact on American culture, introducing avant garde rock and pop art to mainstream music.


Frontman of 1960s rock band The Velvet Underground, Reed first rose to prominence with the band he founded with John Cale in 1964.

The band collaborated with artist Andy Warhol in the 1960s and his work with Warhol is noted as one of the most important collaborations in contemporary culture.

Warhol designed the banana image and the band featured it on its first album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, in 1967.

No band did more than the Velvet Underground to open rock music to the avant-garde — to experimental theatre, art, literature and film, to William Burroughs and Kurt Weill, to John Cage and Andy Warhol, Reed’s early patron.

Indie rock essentially began in the 1960s with Reed and the Velvets; the punk, New Wave and alternative rock movements of the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s were all indebted to Reed, whose songs were covered by R.E.M., Nirvana, Patti Smith and countless others.

The Velvet Underground was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame in 1996 and their landmark debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, was added to the Library of Congress’ registry in 2006.

The singer of classic songs such as Sweet Jane enjoyed a successful solo career with 20 studio albums and numerous collaborations with other artists, including country singer Vince Gill and rock group The Killers.

Online tributes were pouring in on social media after a message sent earlier in the day on Reed's twitter and Facebook pages read simply "The Door."

Reed had undergone a liver transplant earlier this year.

He married Laurie Anderson, a performance artist and experimental musician, in 2008. She is six years his junior.

Additional reporting: Agencies

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí is an Irish Times journalist and editor of the Irish Times Student Hub