Undeniably a gigantic figure in rock music, Lou Reed became synonymous with New York, personifying its street smarts, experience, skepticism, and most of all, its cool.
He most often sang in a detached monotone. His songwriting was unflinching in its depiction of gritty city life full of drugs and sex.
Born in Brooklyn on March 2, 1942, Reed was raised in Freeport, Long Island. As a teenager, he was subjected to electro-shock therapy to “cure” his homosexuality.
He graduated Syracuse University in 1964 and met John Cale in New York where they hatched The Velvet Underground.
Soon The Velvets were featured in Andy Warhol’s “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” multimedia events.
In 1967, while the summer of love flowered on the west coast, The Velvet Underground and Nico debuted an album that came from another world. It’s one of rock’s most essential and influential albums.
Reed left the band in 1970 and reeled off a string of enduring albums including “Transformer” in 1972, and “Rock ‘n Roll Animal” in 1974.
New York was often a character in his songs. He immortalized the old factory crowd in “Walk on the Wild Side,” named a song and album “Coney Island Baby” and sang of egg creams made in Brooklyn. In 1989, he devoted an entire disc to the city with the “New York” album.
With a keen eye and caustic wit, Reed painted portraits of its inhabitants some fictional - some real.
In 1996, The Velvet Underground was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1998, the documentary “Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart” won a Grammy. Beginning in late 2006 he performed concerts featuring his 1973 album “Berlin” at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn. That produced an album and film.
He’ll be remembered as a quintessential New Yorker.