Lou ReedLou Reed (born March 2, 1942) is a singer and songwriter who has had a significant influence on contemporary rock music, inspiring punk rock and many of the musicians who followed it. He started his career as lead guitarist in the uniquely influential Velvet Underground and has been going solo since the early 1970s. He lives in New York City.
Reed's prolonged heroin addiction was a theme of several of his early songs, including the plainly-titled Velvet Underground song "Heroin". He also wrote "Walk on the Wild Side" (about some of the transvestitess at Andy Warhol's Factory) and "Pale Blue Eyes" (about an ex-girlfriend). Bringing sordid or disturbing subject matter into pop music is something of a Lou Reed speciality - he was one of the first to do it - and among his repertory one can also find songs about depression, suicide, illness and prostitution.
In 1972 Reed released the glam rock album Transformer, produced by David Bowie. He followed this in 1973 with Berlin, which can be described as a love story - if an incredibly bleak one - between two junkies in that city. This record, which is generally held to be one of the most depressing albums ever made, consists in the most part of extremely sad songs including "Caroline Says II" (concerning violence), "The Kids" (prostitution and drug addiction), "The Bed" (suicide) and - hardly surprisingly - "Sad Song". Live recordings from the Berlin tour were released on LP as Rock'n'Roll Animal and became a commercial success.
In 1975, he produced the double album Metal Machine Music, which is variously regarded as an early example of noise music, a joke, or an attempt to get out of his record contract at the time.
The later part of the 1970s saw the albums Coney Island Baby (1976), Rock'n'Roll Heart (1976), Street Hassle(1978), The Bells (1979) and Growing Up in Public (1980). This period is often regarded as a mixed affair by rock critics, owing at least partly to the various addictions that were overtaking Reed at the time.
In the early 1980s, Reed gave up the drugs and depravity, both in his work and in his private life, to address more serious concerns, noteably on his acclaimed comeback album The Blue Mask (1982).
In the late 1980s he addressed New York City's political problems on his New York album. He collaborated with John Cale once more, on Songs for Drella, a work about the recently deceased Andy Warhol. He continued on that sad note with Magic and Loss, an album about mortality.
In 1997 a cover of his classic song "Perfect Day" (originally from Transformer, and again concerning the use of heroin), featuring over thirty artists, was used for the BBC's "Children in Need" appeal, while the original appeared in the drug film Trainspotting.
He is often seen in the company of artist Laurie Anderson.