A life saved by rock and roll
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Graduating from Syracuse University in 1964, Reed worked as a songwriter for Pickwick Records, a New York City label for which he wrote standard pop hits while penning early Velvets songs on the side, including the controversial track, “Heroin.”
Around this time, Reed lived with fellow musician John Cale, with whom he produced avant-garde rock with guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker, forming the Velvet Underground in 1964.
After being discovered and eventually sponsored by Warhol, New York’s resident fame machine, Reed and the Velvets released four albums in their 7-year run. The 1967 album “The Velvet Underground & Nico” is the group’s most popular release to date.
Reed later pursued a solo career in 1971 and released his breakout album, “Transformer,” the following year, which sold 1,000 copies in the week after his death.
Reed followed up with a string of albums that caused more of a public stir about their subversive context than his music. Aside from 1975’s commercial flop “Metal Machine Music” — a double album ridden with grating audio feedback — Reed received heat for his sixth album, “Coney Island Baby,” which featured a transgender woman named Rachel, his lover at the time, on its album cover.
In the next four decades, Reed morphed through different shades of his career — releasing 18 more albums, launching a Velvets reunion in 1993, marrying three times, and sobering up — until he was diagnosed with end-stage liver disease this year.
Despite the many titles he earned from both critics and fans over the years — “The Godfather of Punk,” a paragon of cool, a low-life — Reed refused to hear how audiences perceived him, as long as he perceived himself as an artist.
“Some people really like having a spotlight on them. I don’t,” Reed said. “What I like is the song and performing it. Doing it for people – who like it.”
Reed is survived by Anderson, his mother, Toby, and his sister, Merrill Weiner.