Musician Lou Reed passed away today at the age of 71. His cause of death is unknown, but Reed underwent a liver transplant last May.
The Brooklyn-born Reed and Welsh musician John Cale would co-found The Velvet Underground, which became the darlings of Andy Warhol's underground, avant-garde scene in the late 1960's. While their minimalist style did not translate into commercial success, it would influence generations of musicians. Although The Velvet Underground & Nico only sold 30,000 copies at the time of its release, U2's Brian Eno noted back in 1982, "I think everyone who bought one of those copies started a band!" Perhaps The Velvet Underground's best known and most accessible song is "Sweet Jane".
After leaving The Velvet Underground, Reed embarked upon a solo career. Reed would score his biggest commercial success in 1972 with "Walk on The Wild Side." In four decades, Reed released more than 20 albums. His final album, Lulu, which was a collaboration with Metallica, was released in 2011.
Reed is survived by his wife, performance artist Laurie Anderson, whom he married in 2008.
Here is an article by Lee Smith for TabletMag which recounts how Reed nearly punched out Smith at a dinner party a few years ago until he mentioned the name of Brooklyn poet Delmore Schwartz.