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Lewis Allan Reed (born March 2, 1942 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American rock singer-songwriter and guitarist.
Reed first found prominence as the guitarist and principal singer-songwriter of The Velvet Underground (1965 - 1973). The band gained relatively little notice during its life, but is now widely considered a foundational influence on alternative rock, and one of the most important groups of their era. As the Velvets' principal songwriter, Reed wrote about subjects that had rarely been examined in rock and roll, including sadism and masochism ("Venus in Furs"), transvestites ("Sister Ray"), drug culture ("Heroin", and "I'm Waiting for the Man"), and transsexuals undergoing lobotomies ("Lady Godiva's Operation"). As a guitarist, he pioneering made use of distortion, volume-driven feedback, and nonstandard tunings.
Reed began a long and eclectic solo career in 1971. He had a hit the following year with "Walk on the Wild Side", though for more than a decade he seemed to willfully evade mainstream commercial success. One of rock's most volatile personalities, Reed's work as a solo artist has frustrated critics wishing for a return of the Velvet Underground. The most notable example is 1975's infamous double LP of recorded feedback loops, Metal Machine Music, upon which Reed later commented, "no one is supposed to be able to do a thing like that and survive." By the late 1980s, however, Reed had won wide recognition as an elder statesman of rock.
Reed and Cale rented an apartment on the Lower East Side and, adding Reed's college acquaintances, guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker to the group, formed The Velvet Underground. Though internally unstable (Cale left in 1968; Reed in 1970) and never commercially viable, the band has a long-standing reputation as one of the most influential underground bands in rock history.
The group caught the attention of Andy Warhol, who raised their profile immeasurably, if not improving their immediate fortunes. Warhol's associates inspired many of Reed's songs as he ell into a thriving, multifaceted artistic scene. Reed rarely gives an interview without paying homage to Warhol as a mentor figure. Still, conflict emerged when Warhol had the idea for the group to take on a "chanteuse," the European former model Nico. Reed and the others registered their objection by entitling their debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico. Despite his initial resistance, Reed wrote several songs for Nico to sing, and the two were briefly lovers (a distinction later shared by Cale). At the time, this album reached #131 on the charts. Today, however, it is considered one of the most influential rock albums ever produced, influencing noise rock, punk rock, indie rock and more. Rolling Stone Magazine has it listed as the 13th best rock album of all time. Brian Eno once famously stated that although few people ever bought the album, most of those who did were inspired to form their own band.
By the time the band recorded White Light/White Heat, Nico had been dropped and Warhol fired, both against the wishes of Cale. Warhol's replacement as manager, Steve Sesnick, convinced Reed to drive Cale out of the band. Morrison and Tucker were discomfited by Reed's tactics but continued with the group. Cale's replacement was Doug Yule, whom Reed would often facetiously introduce as his younger brother. The group now took on a more pop-oriented sound, and acted more as a vehicle for Reed to develop his songwriting craft. The group released two more albums with this line up: 1969's The Velvet Underground and 1970's Loaded. The latter included two of the group's most popular songs, "Rock and Roll" and "Sweet Jane".
Reed left the Velvet Underground in 1970, and the rest of the founding members departed soon after, but Doug Yule continued for another three years without him and released one more studio album: 1973's Squeeze under the Velvet Underground name. Squeeze continues to be a controversial item among critics and VU fans.
After the band's move to MGM Records, their new manager pushed Reed to change the subject matter of his songs to lighter topics in hopes of resulting in more accessible and mainstream music. The band's album Loaded had taken more time to record than the previous three albums together, and was written and produced to be "loaded with hits," but had not broken the band through to a wider audience. Reed briefly retired to his parents' home on Long Island.
In 2000, a new collaboration with Robert Wilson called "Poe-Try" staged at the Thalia Theater in Germany. Like with the previous collaboration "Time Rocker", "Poe-Try" was also inspired by the works of a 19th century writer: Edgar Allan Poe. Lou became obsessed with Poe after producer and long-time friend Hal Willner had suggested him to read some of Poe's text at a Halloween benefit he was curating at St. Ann's Church in Brooklyn. For this new collaboration with Robert Willson, Lou Reed reworked and even rewrote some of Poe's text as well as included some new songs based on the theme explored in the texts.
In 2001, Reed made a cameo appearance in the movie adaptation of Prozac Nation. On October 6th, 2001 The New York Times published a Lou Reed poem called "Laurie sadly listening" in which he reflects upon the events of 9/11.
Incorrect reports of Reed's death were broadcast by numerous US radio stations in 2001, caused by a hoax email (purporting to be from Reuters) which said he had died of an overdose.
In 2003, he released a 2-CD set, The Raven, based on "Poe-Try". Besides Lou Reed and his band consisting of guitarist Mike Rathke, bassist Fernando Saunders and drummer Tony "Thunder" Smith, the album featured an usual wide range of actors and musicians including singers David Bowie, Laurie Anderson, Kate McGarrigle & Anna McGarrigle, The Blind Boys of Alabama and the then little known Anothy Hegarty, saxophonist and long-time idol Ornette Coleman, and actors Elizabeth Ashley, Steve Buscemi, Willem Dafoe, Amanda Plummer, Fisher Stevens and Kate Valk. The album consisted off songs written by Lou Reed and spoken word performances of reworked and rewritten texts of Edgar Allen Poe by the actors, set to electronic music composed by Lou Reed. At the same time a 1-CD| version of the albums, focusing more on the music, was also released.
Following some months afters the release of The Raven was a new 2 CD Best Off-set called NYC Man: The Ultimatie Collection 1967-2003, which featured an unreleased version of the song "Who am I" and a selection of career spanning tracks that had been selected, remastered and sequenced under Lou's own suppervision.
In April 2003, Lou Reed embarked on a new world tour supporting both new released, with a band including celliste Jane Scarpantoni and singer Anthony Hegarty. During some of the concerts for this tour, the band was joined by Master Ren Guanyi, Lou's personal Tai Chi instructor, performing Tai Chi movements to the music on stage. This tour was documented in the 2004 double disc live album Animal Serenade, recorded live at [The Willtern]] in Los Angeles.
2003 also saw the release of Lou's first book of photographs, called "Emotions in action". This work actually was made up out of 2 books, a lager A4-paper sized called "Emotions" and a smaller one called "Actions" which was laid into the hard cover of the former. After Hours: a Tribute to the Music of Lou Reed was released by Wampus Multimedia in 2003.
In 2004, a Groovefinder remix of his song, "Satellite of Love" (called "Satellite of Love '04") was released. It reached #10 in the UK singles chart. In 2004 Lou Reed contributed vocals and guitar to the track "Fistfull of love" on I am a bird now by Anthony and the Johnsons
In 2005 Reed did a spoken word text on danish rock band Kasmir's album No balance palace.
In January 2006, a second book of photographs called "Lou Reed's New York" was released.
At the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards, Reed performed "White Light/White Heat" with The Raconteurs. Later in the night, while co-presenting the award for Best Rock Video with Pink, he exclaimed, apparently unscripted, that "MTV should be playing more rock n' roll".
In december of 2006, much to anyone's surprise, Lou Reed played a first series of show at St. Ann's Warehouse based on his ledgendary 1973 Berlin song cycle. on Reed was reunited on stage by guitarist Steve Hunter, who played on the original album as well as on Rock 'n' Roll Animal, as well as joined by singers Anthony Hegarty and Sharon Jones, pianist Ruper Christie, a horn and string section and a children's choir. The show was being poduced by Bob Ezrin, who also produced the orginal album, and Hal Willner. The stage was designed by painter Julian Schnabel and a film about protagonist 'Caroline' directed by his daughter, Lola Schnabel, was being projected to the stage.
The show was also played at the Sydney Festival in January 2007 and throughout Europe during June and July of 2007.
In April 2007 he released 'Hudson River Wind Meditations', his first record of ambient meditation music. The record was released on the Sound True record label and contains 4 tracks that was said to have been composed just for himself as a guidance for Tai Chi exercise and meditation.
In May of 2007 Reed performed the narration for a screening of Guy Maddin's silent film The Brand Upon the Brain.
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