Singer, songwriter and guitarist Lou Reed was born on March 2, 1942, in Brooklyn, New York. In 1965, he co-founded the Velvet Underground, a rock band managed by Andy Warhol. Reed went solo in the 1970s, scoring a hit with the song "Walk on the Wild Side" and releasing more than 16 albums, including Coney Island Baby and Berlin. He died on October 27, 2013, at age 71.
Lou Reed was born Lewis Allan Reed at Beth El Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, on March 2, 1942. He spent most of his childhood in Long Island, where he grew up in a Jewish family. Reed took an early interest in music and played guitar in several bands during his high school years. During this period, he underwent electroshock therapy intended to cure him of his bisexuality.
The Velvet Underground
Reed and Cale recruited Reed's college acquaintances, guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker, to join a band they called the Velvet Underground. The group soon caught the attention of artist Andy Warhol, who incorporated them into his regular parties and introduced them to the New York art scene.
Warhol claimed some ownership of the band, compelling them to take on European model Nico as a singer on their debut album. Despite their resistance, the first Velvet Underground album, called The Velvet Underground & Nico, is considered one of the most influential in rock history. Some of Reed's songs, including "Heroin," addressed his growing drug use.
The volatile combination of personalities within the band could not coexist peacefully for long. By the time the band recorded their next album, White Light/White Heat, both Nico and Warhol were no longer participants. Cale and Reed clashed, driving Cale from the band. The Velvet Underground released two more albums with more pop-oriented tracks by Reed, including "Sweet Jane." In 1970, Reed left the band, retiring to his parents' home on Long Island.
Lou Reed briefly worked at his father's tax accounting firm before signing a solo recording contract with RCA Records. His first album, Lou Reed, contained re-recorded versions of unreleased Velvet Underground songs, and was not a commercial or critical success.
In 1972, Reed released Transformer. Co-produced by David Bowie, the album contained the hit single "Walk on the Wild Side," which paid tribute to the hustlers and transvestites Reed had met through Andy Warhol, and the song "Perfect Day." The record is widely considered to be the pinnacle of Reed's solo career.
Following Transformer, Reed recorded a number of albums with wildly differing styles and cultivated an antagonistic and erratic persona.
Reed graduated from Syracuse University, where he studied writing and film. After college, he moved to New York City and began writing songs for Pickwick Records.
In 1964, Reed scored a minor hit with the parody single "The Ostrich." Pickwick hired a band, including future Velvet Underground bandmate John Cale, to back Reed's vocals. The two became friends, collaborators and roommates.