A legend has died. Lou Reed, the music pioneer and 1960s Velvet Underground co-founder, died Sunday at the age of 71, reports CNN. The cause of death has not been disclosed, but Reed’s wife revealed he had received a liver transplant in May.
Most famous for his tune “Walk on the Wild Side” during his years as a solo artist, Reed was a trailblazing singer, songwriter, guitarist, and artistic visionary, who fused music and art together during a 50-year career span; he and the Velvets go down in pop culture history for their collaboration with Andy Warhol in his New York studio, The Factory.
Although Reed didn’t have many musical hits, his artistic influence was undeniable as he dealt with taboo topics like S&M, heroin addiction, and paranoia in a raw and honest way.
“He spoke incredibly frankly about the realities of being an artist, being a person who lived life on one’s own terms,” said Rolling Stone senior editor Simon Vozick-Levinson. “He didn’t prettify things. He didn’t sugarcoat things. He showed life as it really is, and that’s something that made him a true original, and one of our great all-time artists.”
In a 1982 interview with The New York Times, Reed delineated the broader vision of his art. “People say rock ‘n’ roll is constricting, but you can do anything you want, any way you want,” he said. “And my goal has been to make an album that would speak to people the way Shakespeare speaks to me, the way Joyce speaks to me. Something with that kind of power; something with bite to it.”
Watch Reed’s mini bio: