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Lou Reed Dead at 71

Stephen Lovekin, Getty Images

Lou Reed, legendary frontman for the Velvet Underground and acclaimed solo artist, died today (Oct. 27), Rolling Stone reports. He was 71. The cause of death has yet to be announced, but Reed received a liver transplant in May.

Among the most influential rock ‘n’ roll artists of his or any generation, Reed (born March 2, 1942, in Brooklyn) co-founded the Velvet underground with John Cale in 1965 and spearheaded a string of four classic albums: ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ (1967), ‘White Light/White Heat’ (1968), ‘The Velvet Underground’ (1969) and ‘Loaded’ (1970). With their hard-edged sound and edgy subject matter, the four LPs ushered in a new era of maturity in rock music and predicted the punk boom just around the corner.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Velvets never achieved widespread commercial success, and their lackluster sales led to one of the most famous quotes about the band. Commenting in 1982 about how the VU’s debut had sold a mere 30,000 copies in its first five years, innovative producer Brian Eno said “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”

Reed left the Velvet Underground in 1970 to pursue a solo career, and two years later, he released his self-titled debut. That same year, he dropped the much-loved ‘Transformer,’ produced by David Bowie, and in the four decades that followed, Reed consistently defied popular and critical expectations, delving into grinding avant-garde fare with 1975’s ‘Metal Machine Music’ and collaborating with Metallica on 2011’s ‘Lulu.’ Along the way, Reed became regarded as the quintessential gritty New York City street poet, and tunes like ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ and ‘Sweet Jane’ remain radio staples.

Next: 10 Best Velvet Underground Songs

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