Lou Reed, the American music legend who co-founded the Velvet Underground and went on to a fascinating and sometimes confounding solo music career, died today, according to Rolling Stone. He was 71.
No cause of death was immediately reported, but Reed underwent a liver transplant in May. Having famously indulged in heavy drugs and alcohol throughout the '60s and '70s -- but after going sober in the '80s -- Reed said post-transplant that he was "a triumph of modern medicine."
Born in Brooklyn in 1942, Reed co-founded the Velvet Underground with Englishman John Cale. Eventually discovered by Andy Warhol, the band would exert a massive influence on American rock music to come, with its simple, hypnotic song structures, frankly drug-influenced lyrics, and distressed sonics.
Reed went solo in 1970 and released a string of sometimes brilliant, sometimes inscrutable albums on his own. Transformer, in 1972, gave the world classic songs like "Walking on the Wild Side" and "Satellite of Love." But Reed also challenged fans with projects like Metal Machine Music, a 1975 album of proto-industrial noise that some took as a joke. On1982's The Blue Mask, Reed grappled with his recent sobriety, and released some of the best songs of his career.
More recently, Reed collaborated with Bay Area metal titans Metallica for the album Lulu, which paired Reed's signature sing-talking deadpan with the brutal assault of Metallica. It was an interesting experiment that got mostly terrible reviews. But it did get Lou Reed onstage in San Francisco for the last time, as part of Metallica's week-long 30th Anniversary celebration at the Fillmore in December 2011. Reed was scheduled to play the Warfield this April, but canceled "due to unavoidable obligations."
We'll have more on Reed's life and death in the coming days. Right now, we're just sad.