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Lou Reed, defiant, grateful punk till death

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Lou Reed, defiant, grateful punk till death


The late celebrated American culture icon Lou Reed, who died on Sunday, liked to keep language short and simple. That meant song lyrics, melodies and photography. He died age 71 from liver failure in Southampton, New York.

Brooklyn-born, with middle class parents, he hated school, learned guitar from the radio, studied journalism, film and writing at university, and started a band. It was the sixties. Pop artist Andy Warhol [died 1987] managed The Velvet Underground.

Reed said: “Everything I do is from the outside and if it hadn’t been for Andy who knows whether we would’ve had a chance to do everything. So, I think I owe everything to Mr Warhol, thanks. “

Commercially, the early band failed, but culturally, their debut album had huge influence. The Velvet Underground only made three more after that.

Reed’s second solo album was Transformer, in 1972. Twenty-five-year-old David Bowie produced it. The misfit-hustler anthem “Walk on the Wild Side” was a cult hit from that which never wore out.

“I get personal satisfaction out of making things that don’t exist. I follow a passion,” Reed said decades later.

That ‘passion’ was famously low-key. Reed was counter-culture ‘uber-cool’. His work did drugs, sexuality, love, death.

New York street punk went visual, too.

“I have always been taking photos and then I met somebody, he said why don’t you put them together, as so we did.”

Photography happened a lot on tour. He got more into it starting in the ’70s.

The bisexual Reed married three times, the last with experimental performance artist Laurie Anderson.

Later in life he finally reined in his substance abuse.

Those who love Reed, the musician-poet, call him many things, even a romantic.

Earlier this year, he was still preaching his faith: “There’s only one great occupation that can change the world: that’s real rock ‘n’ roll. I believe to the bottom of my heart – to the last cell – that rock ‘n’ roll can change anything; and I’m a graduate of Warhol University! And I believe in the power of punk! To this day, I want to blow it up! Thank you!”

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