Lou Reed, one of the most distinctive and innovative songwriting voices of the rock era, died on Sunday aged 71. Reed’s songs, as performed initially with the Velvet Underground and later as a solo performer, brought the seedy literary world of Hubert Selby Jr. into the rock milieu and acted as both a soundtrack for and aural diary of Andy Warhol’s New York Factory and its circle. Perhaps only the Beatles and David Bowie have done more than Reed to establish rock’s credentials as a valid art form.
His delivery – dry, almost conversational – may have varied little through his career but his music spans a massive gulf between the glossy pop classicism of the Transformer album (it features three of his best known and most accessible songs – ‘Perfect day’, ‘Walk on the wild side’ and ‘Satellite of love’) and the uncompromising pure noise of Metal machine music. Somewhere between those extreme poles, his work was able to encompass a musical adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s the Raven and working, shortly before his death, with Metallica.
The worlds of art, rock and pop music have lost an edgy and vital spirit.