|Lewis Allan Reed|
March 2, 1942|
Brooklyn, New York, United States
|Origin||Freeport, New York, U.S.|
October 27, 2013 (aged 71)|
Lewis Allan Reed (March 2, 1942 - October 27, 2013) was an American musician, singer and songwriter. He was the lead guitarist, singer and principal songwriter for the rock band the Velvet Underground and also had a solo career that spanned five decades. The Velvet Underground achieved little commercial success during their existence, but are now regarded as one of the most influential bands in the history of underground and alternative rock music.
After leaving the band in 1970, Reed released twenty solo studio albums. His second, Transformer (1972), was produced by David Bowie and arranged by Mick Ronson, and brought mainstream recognition. After Transformer, the less commercial Berlin reached No. 7 on the UK Albums Chart. Rock n Roll Animal (a live album released in 1974) sold strongly, and Sally Can't Dance (1974) peaked at number 10 on the Billboard 200, but for a period Reed's work did not translate into sales, leading him into drug addiction and alcoholism. Reed gradually returned to prominence with New Sensations (1984), reaching a critical and commercial later career peak with his 1989 album New York.
Reed participated in a revival of the Velvet Underground in the 1990s, and made several more albums, including a tribute to his mentor Andy Warhol. He contributed music to two theatrical interpretations of 19th-century writers, one of which he developed into an album. He married his third wife Laurie Anderson in 2008, and recorded Lulu with Metallica. He died in 2013 of liver disease. Reed's distinctive deadpan voice, poetic lyrics and experimental guitar playing were trademarks throughout his long career.
Lewis Allan Reed was born on March 2, 1942 at Beth El Hospital (now Brookdale) in Brooklyn and grew up in Freeport, Long Island.[nb 1] Reed was the son of Toby (née Futterman) (1920-2013) and Sidney Joseph Reed (1913-2005), an accountant. His family was Jewish; his father had changed his name from Rabinowitz to Reed. Reed later said that although he was Jewish, his real god was rock 'n' roll.
Reed attended Atkinson Elementary School in Freeport and went on to Freeport Junior High School. His sister Merrill, born Elizabeth Reed, said that as an adolescent, he suffered panic attacks, became socially awkward and "possessed a fragile temperament" but was highly focused on things that he liked, mainly music. Having learned to play the guitar from the radio, he developed an early interest in rock and roll and rhythm and blues, and during high school played in several bands.
He began experimenting with drugs at the age of 16. His first recording was as a member of a doo-wop band called the Jades. His love for playing music and his desire to play gigs brought him into confrontation with his anxious and unaccommodating parents. His sister recalled that during his first year in college he was brought home one day, having had a mental breakdown, after which he remained "depressed, anxious, and socially unresponsive" for a time, and that his parents were having difficulty coping. Visiting a psychologist, Reed's parents were made to feel guilty as inadequate parents, and consented to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Reed appeared to blame his father for the treatment to which he had been subjected. He wrote about the experience in his 1974 song, "Kill Your Sons". Reed later recalled the experience as having been traumatic and leading to memory loss. He believed that he was treated to dispel his feelings of homosexuality. After Reed's death, his sister denied the ECT treatments were intended to suppress his "homosexual urges", asserting that their parents were not homophobic but had been told by his doctors that ECT was necessary to treat Reed's mental and behavioral issues.
Upon his recovery from his illness and associated treatment, Reed resumed his education at Syracuse University in 1960, studying journalism, film directing, and creative writing. He was a platoon leader in ROTC; he said he was later expelled from the program for holding an unloaded gun to his superior's head.
In 1961, he began hosting a late-night radio program on WAER called Excursions on a Wobbly Rail. Named after a song by pianist Cecil Taylor, the program typically featured doo wop, rhythm and blues, and jazz, particularly the free jazz developed in the mid-1950s. Reed said that when he started out he was inspired by such musicians as Ornette Coleman, who had "always been a great influence" on him; he said that his guitar on "European Son" was his way of trying to imitate the jazz saxophonist. Reed's sister said that during her brother's time at Syracuse, the university authorities had tried unsuccessfully to expel him because they did not approve of his activities. At Syracuse University, he studied under poet Delmore Schwartz, who he said was "the first great person I ever met", and they became friends. He credited Schwartz with showing him how "with the simplest language imaginable, and very short, you can accomplish the most astonishing heights." One of Reed's fellow students at Syracuse in the early 1960s (who also studied under Schwartz) was the musician Garland Jeffreys; they remained close friends until the end of Reed's life.
Jeffreys recalled Reed's time at Syracuse: "At four in the afternoon we'd all meet at [the bar] The Orange Grove. Me, Delmore and Lou. That would often be the center of the crew. And Delmore was the leader - our quiet leader." While at Syracuse, Reed was also introduced to heroin for the first time, and quickly contracted hepatitis.Sterling Morrison was not attending Syracuse at the time, but met Reed while he was visiting mutual friend Jim Tucker, the older brother of Velvet Underground drummer Moe Tucker, who was attending school there. Reed later dedicated the song "European Son", from the first Velvet Underground album, to Schwartz. In 1982, Reed recorded "My House" from his album The Blue Mask as a tribute to his late mentor. He later said that his goals as a writer were "to bring the sensitivities of the novel to rock music" or to write the Great American Novel in a record album. Reed graduated from Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences with a B.A. cum laude in English in June 1964.
In 1964, Reed moved to New York City to work as an in-house songwriter for Pickwick Records. That year he wrote and recorded the single "The Ostrich", a parody of popular dance songs of the time, which included lines such as "put your head on the floor and have somebody step on it". His employers felt that the song had hit potential, and assembled a supporting band to help promote the recording. The ad hoc band, called "the Primitives", included Welsh musician John Cale, who had recently moved to New York to study music and was playing viola in composer La Monte Young's Theatre of Eternal Music, along with Tony Conrad. Cale and Conrad were surprised to find that for "The Ostrich", Reed tuned each string of his guitar to the same note, which they began to call his "ostrich guitar" tuning. This technique created a drone effect similar to their experimentation in Young's avant-garde ensemble. Disappointed with Reed's performance, Cale was nevertheless impressed by Reed's early repertoire (including "Heroin"), and a partnership began to evolve.
Reed and Cale (who played viola, keyboards and bass guitar) lived together on the Lower East Side, and invited Reed's college acquaintance guitarist Sterling Morrison and Cale's neighbor drummer Angus MacLise to join the band, thus forming the Velvet Underground. When the opportunity came to play their first paying gig at Summit High School in Summit, New Jersey, MacLise quit because he believed that accepting money for art was a sellout and did not want to participate in a structured gig. He was replaced on drums by Moe Tucker, initially for that one show, but she soon became a full-time member with her drumming an integral part of the band's sound, despite Cale's initial objections. Though it had little commercial success, the band is considered one of the most influential in rock history. Reed was the main singer and songwriter in the band.
The band soon came to the attention of Andy Warhol. One of Warhol's first contributions was to integrate them into the Exploding Plastic Inevitable. Warhol's associates inspired many of Reed's songs as he fell into a thriving, multifaceted artistic scene. Reed rarely gave an interview without paying homage to Warhol as a mentor. Warhol pushed the band to take on a chanteuse, the German former model and singer Nico. Despite his initial resistance, Reed wrote several songs for Nico to sing, and the two were briefly lovers.
The Velvet Underground & Nico reached No. 171 on the charts.Rolling Stone listed it as the 13th greatest album of all time; Brian Eno once stated that although few people bought the album, most of them were inspired to form their own bands.Václav Havel credited the album, which he bought while visiting the US, with inspiring him to become president of Czechoslovakia.
By the time the band recorded White Light/White Heat, Nico had quit and Warhol had been fired, both against Cale's wishes. Warhol's replacement as manager was Steve Sesnick. In September 1968, Cale left the band at Reed's behest. Morrison and Tucker were discomfited by Reed's tactics but continued with the band. Cale's replacement was Boston-based musician Doug Yule, who played bass guitar, keyboards and who would soon share lead vocal duties in the band with Reed. The band now took on a more pop-oriented sound and acted more as a vehicle for Reed to develop his songwriting craft. They released two studio albums with this line-up: 1969's The Velvet Underground and 1970's Loaded. Reed left the Velvet Underground in August 1970. The band disintegrated after Morrison and Tucker departed in 1971.
After leaving the Velvet Underground, Reed moved to his parents' home on Long Island, and took a job at his father's tax accounting firm as a typist, by his own account earning $40 a week ($252 in 2017 dollars). In 1971, he signed a recording contract with RCA Records and recorded his first solo album at Morgan Studios in Willesden, London with session musicians including Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman from the band Yes. The album, Lou Reed, contained versions of unreleased Velvet Underground songs, some of which had originally been recorded for Loaded but shelved.[nb 2] This album was overlooked by most pop music critics and did not sell well, although music critic Stephen Holden, in Rolling Stone, called it an "almost perfect album. . . . which embodied the spirit of the Velvets." Holden went on to compare Reed's voice with those of Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan and to praise the poetic quality of his lyrics.
Reed's breakthrough album, Transformer, was released in November 1972. Transformer was co-produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson, and it introduced Reed to a wider audience, especially in the UK. The single "Walk on the Wild Side" was a salute to the misfits and hustlers who once surrounded Andy Warhol. Each of the song's five verses describes a person who had been a fixture at The Factory during the mid-to-late 1960s: (1) Holly Woodlawn, (2) Candy Darling, (3) "Little Joe" Dallesandro, (4) "Sugar Plum Fairy" Joe Campbell and (5) Jackie Curtis. The song's transgressive lyrics evaded radio censorship. Though the jazzy arrangement (courtesy of bassist Herbie Flowers and saxophonist Ronnie Ross) was musically atypical for Reed, it eventually became his signature song. It came about as a result of a commission to compose a soundtrack to a theatrical adaptation of Nelson Algren's novel of the same name; the play failed to materialize. "Walk on the Wild Side" was Reed's only entry in the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, at number 16.
Ronson's arrangements brought out new aspects of Reed's songs. "Perfect Day", for example, features delicate strings and soaring dynamics. It was rediscovered in the 1990s and allowed Reed to drop "Walk on the Wild Side" from his concerts.
Bowie and Reed fell out during a late-night meeting which led to Reed hitting Bowie. Bowie had told Reed that he would have to "clean up his act" if they were to work together again.[nb 3] Reed hired an inexperienced bar band, the Tots, to tour in support of Transformer and spent much of 1972 and early 1973 on the road with them. Though they improved over the months, criticism of their still-basic abilities ultimately led Reed to fire them mid-tour. He chose keyboardist Moogy Klingman to come up with a new five-member backing band on barely a week's notice.
Reed married Bettye Kronstad in 1973. She later said he had been a violent drunk when on tour.Berlin (July 1973) was a concept album about two junkies in love in the city. The songs variously concern domestic violence ("Caroline Says I", "Caroline Says II"), drug addiction ("How Do You Think It Feels"), adultery and prostitution ("The Kids"), and suicide ("The Bed"). Reed's late 1973 European tour, featuring lead guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, mixed his Berlin material with older numbers. Response to Berlin at the time of its release was negative, with Rolling Stone pronouncing it "a disaster". Reed found the poor reviews it received very frustrating. Since then the album has been critically reevaluated, and in 2003 Rolling Stone included it in their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.Berlin made number 7 in the UK charts.
Following the commercial disappointment of Berlin, Reed befriended Steve Katz of Blood, Sweat & Tears (who was the brother of his then-manager Dennis Katz), who suggested Reed put together a "great live band" and release a live album of Velvet Underground songs. , Katz would come on-board as producer, and the album Rock 'n' Roll Animal (February 1974) contained live performances of the Velvet Underground songs "Sweet Jane", "Heroin", "White Light/White Heat", and "Rock and Roll". Wagner's live arrangements, and Hunter's intro to "Sweet Jane" which opened the album, gave Reed's songs the live rock sound he was looking for, and the album peaked at #45 on the Top 200 Billboard Chart for 28 weeks and soon became Reed's biggest selling album.[nb 4] It went gold in 1978, with 500,000 certified sales.
Sally Can't Dance which was released later that year (in August 1974), became Reed's highest-charting album in the United States, peaking at number 10 during a 14-week stay on the Billboard 200 album chart in October 1974.
Metal Machine Music (1975) was an hour of modulated feedback and guitar effects. Critics interpreted it as a gesture of contempt, an attempt to break his contract with RCA or to alienate his less sophisticated fans. Reed claimed that the album was a genuine artistic effort, even suggesting that quotations of classical music could be found buried in the feedback. Lester Bangs declared it "genius", though also psychologically disturbing. The album was reportedly returned to stores by the thousands and was withdrawn after a few weeks.
1976's Coney Island Baby was dedicated to Reed's partner Rachel, a transgender woman Reed dated and lived with for three years. Rachel also appears in the photos on the cover of Reed's 1977 "best of" album, Walk on the Wild Side: The Best of Lou Reed. Rock and Roll Heart was his 1976 debut for his new record label Arista, and Street Hassle (1978) was released in the midst of the punk scene he had helped to inspire. Reed took on a watchful, competitive and sometimes dismissive attitude towards punk. Aware that he had inspired them, he regularly attended shows at CBGB to track the artistic and commercial development of numerous punk bands, and a cover illustration and interview of Reed appeared in the first issue of Punk by Legs McNeil.
Reed released his third live album, Live: Take No Prisoners, in 1978; some critics thought it was his "bravest work yet", while others considered it his "silliest".Rolling Stone described it as "one of the funniest live albums ever recorded" and compared Reed's monologues with those of Lenny Bruce. Reed felt it was his best album to date.
The Bells (1979) featured jazz trumpeter Don Cherry. Around this time Reed also appeared as a sleazy record producer in Paul Simon's film One-Trick Pony. From around 1979 Reed began to wean himself off drugs.
Reed married British designer Sylvia Morales in 1980. Morales inspired Reed to write several songs, particularly "Think It Over" from 1980's Growing Up in Public and "Heavenly Arms" from 1982's The Blue Mask. After Legendary Hearts (1983) and New Sensations (1984), Reed was sufficiently reestablished as a public figure to become spokesman for Honda motorcycles. In the early 1980s, Reed worked with guitarists including Chuck Hammer on Growing Up in Public, and Robert Quine on The Blue Mask and Legendary Hearts.
In 1998, The New York Times observed that in the 1970s, Reed had a distinctive persona: "Back then he was publicly gay, pretended to shoot heroin onstage, and cultivated a 'Dachau panda' look, with cropped peroxide hair and black circles painted under his eyes." The newspaper wrote that in 1980, "Reed renounced druggy theatrics, even swore off intoxicants themselves, and became openly heterosexual, openly married."
On September 22, 1985, Reed performed at the first Farm Aid concert in Champaign, Illinois. He performed "Doin' the Things That We Want To", "I Love You, Suzanne", "New Sensations" and "Walk on the Wild Side" as his solo set, later playing bass for Roy Orbison during his set. In June 1986, Reed released Mistrial (co-produced with Fernando Saunders). To support the album, he released two music videos: "No Money Down" and "The Original Wrapper". In the same year, he joined Amnesty International's A Conspiracy of Hope short tour and was outspoken about New York City's political issues and personalities.
The 1989 album New York, which commented on crime, AIDS, Jesse Jackson, Kurt Waldheim and Pope John Paul II, became his second gold-certified work when it passed 500,000 sales in 1997. Reed was nominated for a Grammy Award for best male rock vocal performance for the album.
Reed met John Cale for the first time in decades at Warhol's funeral in 1987. They worked together on the album Songs for Drella (April 1990), a song cycle about Warhol. On the album, Reed sings of his love for his late friend, and criticizes both the doctors who were unable to save Warhol's life and Warhol's would-be assassin, Valerie Solanas.
In June 1990, the first Velvet Underground lineup reformed for a Fondation Cartier benefit show in France. In June and July 1993, the Velvet Underground again reunited and toured Europe, including an appearance at the Glastonbury Festival; plans for a North American tour were cancelled following a dispute between Reed and Cale.
In 1994, Reed appeared in A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who. In the same year, he and Morales were divorced. In 1996, the Velvet Underground were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At the ceremony, Reed, Cale and Tucker performed a song entitled "Last Night I Said Goodbye to My Friend", dedicated to Sterling Morrison, who had died the previous August.
In February 1996 Reed released Set the Twilight Reeling, and In 1996, Reed contributed songs and music to Time Rocker, a theatrical interpretation of H. G. Wells' The Time Machine by director Robert Wilson. The piece premiered in the Thalia Theater, Hamburg, and was later also shown at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York.
In 1998, the PBS television series American Masters aired Timothy Greenfield-Sanders' feature documentary Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart. The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in the US and at the Berlin International Film Festival, went on to screen at over 50 festivals worldwide. In 1999, the film and Reed as its subject received a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video.
From the late 1990s, Reed was romantically linked to musician, multimedia and performance artist Laurie Anderson, and the two worked together on several recordings. They married on April 12, 2008.
In February 2000, Reed worked with Robert Wilson at the Thalia Theater again, on "Poe-Try", another production inspired by the works of a 19th-century writer, this time Edgar Allan Poe. In April 2000, Reed released Ecstasy. In January 2003, Reed released a two-CD set, The Raven, based on it. The album consists of songs written by Reed and spoken-word performances of reworked and rewritten texts of Edgar Allan Poe by the actors, set to electronic music composed by Reed. It features David Bowie and Ornette Coleman. A single disc CD version of the album, focusing on the music, was also released.[nb 5]
In May 2000, Reed performed before Pope John Paul II at the Great Jubilee Concert in Rome. In 2001, Reed made a cameo appearance in the movie adaptation of Prozac Nation. On October 6, 2001, the New York Times published a Reed poem called "Laurie Sadly Listening" in which he reflects on the September 11 attacks.Incorrect reports of Reed's death were broadcast by numerous US radio stations in 2001, caused by a hoax email (purporting to be from Reuters) which said he had died of a drug overdose. In April 2003, Reed began a world tour featuring the cellist Jane Scarpantoni and singer Anohni.
In 2003, Reed released a book of photographs, Emotions in Action. This comprised an A4-sized book called Emotions and a smaller one called Actions laid into its hard cover. In January 2006, he released a second book of photographs, Lou Reed's New York. A third volume, Romanticism, was released in 2009.
In October 2006, Reed appeared at Hal Willner's Leonard Cohen tribute show "Came So Far for Beauty" in Dublin, along with Laurie Anderson, Nick Cave, Anohni, Jarvis Cocker, and Beth Orton. He played a heavy metal version of Cohen's "The Stranger Song".
In December that year, Reed played a series of shows at St. Ann's Warehouse, Brooklyn, based on Berlin. Reed played with guitarist Steve Hunter, who played on the original album and Rock 'n' Roll Animal, and was joined by singers Anohni and Sharon Jones. The show was produced by Bob Ezrin, who also produced the original album, and Hal Willner. The show played at the Sydney Festival in January 2007 and in Europe during June and July 2007. The album version of the concert, entitled Berlin: Live at St. Ann's Warehouse, and a live film recording of these concerts were both released in 2008. In April 2007, he released Hudson River Wind Meditations, an album of ambient meditational music. It was released on the Sounds True record label. In June 2007, he performed at the Traffic Festival 2007 in Turin, Italy, a five-day free event organized by the city. In the same month "Pale Blue Eyes" was included in the soundtrack of the French-language film, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. In August 2007, Reed recorded "Tranquilize" with the Killers in New York City, a duet with Brandon Flowers for the B-side/rarities album Sawdust.
On October 2 and 3, 2008, he introduced his new group, which was later named Metal Machine Trio, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Complex in Los Angeles. The trio featured Ulrich Krieger (saxophone) and Sarth Calhoun (electronics), and played improvised instrumental music inspired by Metal Machine Music. Recordings of the concerts were released under the title The Creation of the Universe. The trio played at New York's Gramercy Theatre in April 2009, and appeared as part of Reed's band at the 2009 Lollapalooza.
Reed provided the voice of Maltazard, the villain in the 2009 Luc Besson animated/live-action feature film Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard and appeared as himself in Wim Wenders' 2008 film Palermo Shooting.
Reed played "Sweet Jane" and "White Light/White Heat" with Metallica at Madison Square Garden during the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on October 30, 2009. In October 2011, Metallica and Reed released the collaboration album Lulu. It was based on the "Lulu" plays by the German playwright Frank Wedekind (1864-1918). The album received mixed and mainly negative reviews from music critics. Reed joked that he had no fans left. The album debuted at number 36 on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 13,000 copies.
Reed had suffered hepatitis and diabetes for several years. He had practiced tai chi during the last part of his life. He was treated with interferon but developed liver cancer. In May 2013, he underwent a liver transplant at the Cleveland Clinic. Afterwards, on his website, he wrote of feeling "bigger and stronger" than ever, but on October 27, 2013, he died from liver disease at his home in East Hampton, New York, at the age of 71. He was cremated and the ashes were given to his family.
His wife Laurie Anderson said his last days were peaceful, and described him as a "prince and a fighter".David Byrne,Patti Smith,David Bowie, Morrissey, Iggy Pop, Courtney Love, Lenny Kravitz and many others also paid tribute to Reed. Former Velvet Underground members Moe Tucker and John Cale made statements on Reed's death, and notables from far outside the music industry paid their respects such as Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi.
Pearl Jam dedicated their song "Man of the Hour" to Reed at their show in Baltimore and then played "I'm Waiting for the Man". On the day of his death, the Killers dedicated their rendition of "Pale Blue Eyes" to Reed at the Life Is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas.My Morning Jacket performed a cover of "Oh! Sweet Nuthin" in California while Arctic Monkeys performed "Walk on the Wild Side" in Liverpool. On November 14, 2013, a three-hour public memorial was held near Lincoln Center's Paul Milstein Pool and Terrace. Billed as "New York: Lou Reed at Lincoln Center", the ceremony featured favorite Reed recordings selected by family and friends.
Reed's estate was valued at $30 million, $20 million of which accrued after his death. He left everything to his wife and his sister.
Reed's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist was announced on December 16, 2014. He was inducted by Patti Smith at a ceremony in Cleveland on April 18, 2015. In 2017, Lou Reed: A Life was published by the Rolling Stone critic Anthony DeCurtis.
|1980||One-Trick Pony||Steve Kunelian|
|Rock & Rule||Mok's singing voice|
|1993||Faraway, So Close!||Himself|
|1995||Blue in the Face||Man with Strange Glasses|
|1998||Lulu on the Bridge||Not Lou Reed||Cameo|
|2008||Berlin: Live at St. Ann's Warehouse||Himself|
|2009||Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard||Emperor Maltazard (voice)||Replaced David Bowie, who voiced the character in the first installment.|
|2010||Arthur 3: The War of the Two Worlds||Emperor Maltazard (voice)|
|2010||Red Shirley||Director, Interviewer||Documentary, 28 mins.|
|2016||Danny Says||Subject||Documentary, 104 mins. Features archival tape from 1975 of Lou Reed listening to the Ramones for the first time with music manager Danny Fields|
[He] started a band, he had his own radio show. He reportedly libeled some student on his radio show; the kid's family tried to sue my father. And there were other extracurricular possibly illegal activities of which the university didn't approve. I believe they tried to kick him out. But he was a genius; what could they do? He stayed and he graduated.
For decades this album has cast a huge shadow over nearly every sub-variety of avant-garde rock, from 1970s art-rock to No Wave, New Wave and Punk. Referring to their sway over the rock music of the '70s and '80s, critic Lester Bangs stated, 'Modern music starts with the Velvets, and the implications and influence of what they did seem to go on forever.'
The influence of the Velvet Underground on rock greatly exceeds their sales figures and chart numbers. They are one of the most important rock and roll bands of all time, laying the groundwork in the Sixties for many tangents rock music would take in ensuing decades.