Musician and guitarist Lou Reed, the frontman for the band Velvet Underground as well as a solo artist, has died.
Reed, who was born to a Jewish family, died Sunday at 71. A cause of death was not made public.
He had a liver transplant last year after years of alcohol and drug abuse.
Reed, born Lewis Allan Reed in Brooklyn, N.Y., became influential in rock by blending art and music in New York in the 1960s through Velvet Underground’s collaboration with pop artist Andy Warhol. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame in 1996.
Reed quit the band in 1970 and focused on his solo career, which featured the 1972 hit song “Walk on the Wild Side.”
He visited Israel five years ago with his musician wife Laurie Anderson during her world tour. Together with Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkle and Billy Joel, Reed was part of a wave of Jewish rockers who emerged in the late 60s and infused their music with commentary about society. In Reed’s case, he expressed righteous indignation in songs such as “Dirty Boulevard.”
“Give me your hungry, your tired your poor I’ll piss on ’em
That’s what the Statue of Bigotry says
Your poor huddled masses, let’s club ’em to death
And get it over with and just dump ’em on the boulevard.”
As noted by Tom Gross in the National Review, Reed also took Kurt Waldheim and Jesse Jackson to task in his 1989 song “Good Evening Mr. Waldheim.”
“Jesse you say Common Ground
Does that include the PLO?
What about people right here right now
who fought for you not so long ago? “
Reed reportedly was coy about his Jewish roots. He was quoted as saying, “My God is rock ’n’ roll” and “The most important part of my religion is to play guitar.”