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Lou Reed is among the most groundbreaking, influential, at times confounding, and always compelling figures that rock & roll has produced. Lyrically delving into previously unexplored realms of sexual transgression and drug use with his band the Velvet Underground, Reed’s solo career saw him evolve his image from glam rocker to depraved junkie to avant-garde sound sculptor to proto-punk pioneer to average your New Yorker, all linked by his trademark streetwise, sing-speak vocals. After a half decade at Arista Records, in 1982 Reed rejoined the roster of RCA Records, with whom he’d previously issued Transformer, Berlin and Rock N Roll Animal, among others. Newly sober and married, Reed dropped his guard and plugged in his guitar for a tough-minded trilogy of albums that progressively took him through the darkness and into the light. Instead of the character portraits of earlier works, a 40-year-old Reed turned the focus squarely on himself and the people he knew, directly addressing adult concerns in a series of intelligent, honest, fearless and heartfelt songs. Pairing Reed’s sharpest writing with stripped-down arrangements and straightforward, almost “invisible” production, the albums The Blue Mask, Legendary Hearts and New Sensations brought Reed back to critical approbation, reconnected him with his audience, and set the course for the majority of his future work including the critical and commercial triumph of New York.

Did you know?

  • After quitting The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed worked for a year as a typist at his father’s tax accounting company
  • Lou Reed promoted a range of Italian flip-up glasses called Lou’s Views
  • In his later years, Lou Reed became a devoted student of Tai Chi and even invited his Master Ren GuangYi onstage