lunes, 28 de octubre de 2013

Lou Reed, visionary rock musician, dies at 71 - San Francisco Chronicle

Lou Reed, who epitomized intellectual musicality, gender ambiguity and hedonistic excess in the 1960s as a member of the Velvet Underground and became a hugely influential giant for the next 50 years, died Sunday in Southampton, N.Y.

Reed died of complications from a liver transplant he received in May. His death, at 71, was confirmed by his literary agent, Andrew Wylie.

Mr. Reed, who was born in Brooklyn and grew up on Long Island, was living in Manhattan when he first met Welsh musician John Cale in the '60s. The two became roommates in New York's gritty Lower East Side and formed the nucleus of a group that would evolve into the Velvet Underground.

Mr. Reed had already begun working on his signature guitar sound by tuning all the strings on his instrument to the same note, and had composed the song "Heroin," which would appear on the Velvets' 1967 debut album, "The Velvet Underground and Nico." The album, with its starkly unforgettable Andy Warhol cover design of a garishly yellow banana, also included the song "I'm Waiting for the Man," a kind of pre-punk chant about a drug hookup.

By that time, Warhol had taken the band under his wing as part of his disparate band of musicians, models, photographers, filmmakers, painters, transvestites and uncategorizable figures from New York's demimonde. Even before the album appeared, the Velvets were the house band for Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable, multimedia happenings Warhol organized in New York and elsewhere. The EPI played the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco in 1966.

Not the S.F. sound

By 1969, Cale had already left the band and Mr. Reed was a year away from launching his own solo career when the Velvets came to San Francisco to play the Matrix. Tapes from those performances, as well as a Dallas date, were later used to make one of the band's most popular albums, "1969: The Velvet Underground Live," released in 1974.

The Matrix gig delineated the enormous musical and intellectual gap between California and New York rock in the '60s. According to the late punk guitarist Robert Quine, whose recordings of Velvets concerts in New York and California became "Bootleg Series Vol. 1: The Quine Tapes," San Francisco hippies with tambourines showed up to see "Warhol's death rock" first at the Avalon Ballroom and later at the Matrix.

Where the San Francisco sound was epitomized by groups like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company and Santana - a kind of neo-baroque, psychedelic-influenced music - the Velvets and other New York bands probed darker themes and were known for a deceptively sparse sound that would later influence punk rock.

"Lou Reed was the dark underside of the flower children and the bleak voice of New York downtown," said Chronicle senior pop music correspondent Joel Selvin on Sunday. "He never really veered from that."

Mr. Reed was born in Brooklyn on March 2, 1942, to accountant Sidney Reed and his wife, Toby, and grew up in Freeport, Long Island. In 1956, his parents arranged for him to undergo electroshock therapy in an attempt to "cure" him of being bisexual. Mr. Reed later repurposed the experience in the song "Kill Your Sons."

He entered Syracuse University in 1960, where he became an acolyte of poet Delmore Schwartz, then moved to Manhattan after graduating in 1964.

Some solo success

Mr. Reed left the Velvet Underground in 1970, but it was more difficult for him to leave some of the trappings of that downtown life - chiefly, drug and alcohol abuse. He wouldn't get clean until the 1980s, but still managed a prodigious musical and literary output during that time.

His second solo album, 1972's "Transformer," produced by Mick Ronson and David Bowie, was a commercial success and included his hit song "Walk on the Wild Side," memorializing such figures of Warhol's Factory as transvestites Holly Woodlawn, Jackie Curtis and Candy Darling, and actor-model Joe Dallesandro, who "never once gave it away."

Mr. Reed's musical career roller-coastered throughout the '70s. He followed "Transformer" with "Berlin," a concept album about two junkies in love that was a commercial failure. The same year Mercury released "1969," Reed found commercial success with "Rock n Roll Animal," a live album that included Velvet Underground songs "Sweet Jane" and "Heroin."

Mr. Reed married designer Sylvia Morales in 1980. During their decade-long marriage, Mr. Reed produced "The Blue Mask," with songs inspired by Morales, who also designed the appropriately stripped-down black and blue album cover.

Mr. Reed had a rapprochement with Cale on the 1987 album "Songs for Drella," and the Velvet Underground reunited first in 1990 for a benefit in France. That was followed three years later by a European tour that never made it to the United States because, once again, Mr. Reed and Cale had a falling-out.

In the late 1990s, Mr. Reed became romantically involved with musician and performance artist Laurie Anderson. The two were married in 2008 and often collaborated on artistic projects.

Mr. Reed remained artistically adventurous and collaborative throughout his long and rich career. He performed "Sweet Jane" and "White Light/White Heat" live with Metallica at Madison Square Garden in 2009. Two years later, Mr. Reed and the Bay Area metal band would team up for the album "Lulu."

Other expressions

Mr. Reed published his first book of photographs in 2003, titled "Emotions in Action." His writings were also published in the New Yorker. He was the subject of an "American Masters" documentary and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Mr. Reed is likely to be remembered for his one Top 20 hit, "Walk on the Wild Side," but that doesn't begin to summarize the extraordinary artistic vision and immeasurable influence of his art.

Whatever we think of as indie or alt rock today would not exist without Mr. Reed's influence. Musician-producer Brian Eno, noting that the first Velvet Underground album sold 30,000 copies in five years, may have been exaggerating only slightly when he suggested that every one of the 30,000 buyers went out and started a band.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

David Wiegand is The San Francisco Chronicle's executive features editor and TV critic. E-mail: Twitter: @WaitWhat_TV Chronicle wire services contributed to this report.

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