Syracuse University Magazine

Lou Reed ’64

Lou-Reed_bw.jpg

LEWIS ALLEN “LOU” REED ’64, the singer, songwriter, and guitarist whose work with the Velvet Underground in the 1960s influenced generations of musicians, died on October 27, 2013, at his home on Long Island. He was 71. Reed is remembered as a powerful, if polarizing, force whose music combined urban decadence with elements of the avant-garde. Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island, Reed attended Syracuse University, where he majored in English and studied under Delmore Schwartz. It was Schwartz’s short story, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, that shaped Reed’s simple colloquial language and later motivated him to establish the Lou Reed/Delmore Schwartz Scholarship at SU for English majors studying creative writing. “Delmore inspired me to write, and, to this day, I draw inspiration from his stories, poems, and essays,” Reed said at his own Arents Award celebration in 2007. 

Following graduation, Reed relocated to New York City, where he founded the Velvet Underground with John Cale and, with Andy Warhol’s support, gained entrée to the city’s hippest, most flamboyant circles. Reed recorded four albums with the Velvets, including the seminal Velvet Underground and Nico (1967), all of which proved too controversial for mainstream audiences, but became enduring classics, nonetheless. Not until Reed’s second solo album, Transformer (1972), which spawned the megahits “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Satellite of Love,” did he make the transition from cult hero to rock superstar. In the process, Reed laid the groundwork for glam, punk, and alternative rock. Fiercely inventive, he went on to record more than 30 solo albums, tour relentlessly, and experiment with other media, including photography, poetry, and playwriting. Reed was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, along with the Velvets, in 1996, and was nominated as a solo artist in 2000 and 2001. He is survived by his wife, Laurie Anderson.