It’s been over eight years since Lou Reed took his last walk on the wild side, but had he lived, the influential rocker would have celebrated his 80th birthday today.
Reed came to fame in the late 1960s as the leader, rhythm guitarist and main songwriter of the New York City-based band The Velvet Underground, whose songs explored dark themes such as drugs, kinky sex and domestic violence in the midst of the “Flower Power” era.
Although the group enjoyed little commercial success, their edgy and poetic tunes and sometimes experimental music inspired countless bands and artists that followed in their wake, including David Bowie, Roxy Music, Patti Smith and many notable punk, New Wave and alternative rock acts.
The band’s 1967 debut, The Velvet Undeground & Nico, was ranked #23 on Rolling Stone’s 2020 list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
Reed left The Velvet Underground in 1970 and forged a critically acclaimed solo career that spanned over 40 years.
Lou’s best-known solo effort was 1972’s Transformer, which was co-produced by Bowie. The album peaked at #29 on the Billboard 200 and included Reed’s signature tune “Walk on the Wild Side,” which reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as “Perfect Day.”
Two of Reed’s solo albums were certified gold for sales of 500,000 in the U.S. — the popular 1974 live album Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal and 1990’s New York, which featured the modern-rock hit “Dirty Blvd.”
Reed was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice, in 1992 as member of The Velvet Underground and posthumously as a solo artist in 2015.
Reed’s final album project saw him collaborate with Metallica on the 2011 concept album Lulu.
Lou died of liver cancer in October 2013 at age 71.
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