While his cause of death has not yet been released, the former Velvet Underground frontman had long struggled with liver problems, undergoing surgery in May.
Reed's prolific influence stretched out over fifty years, shaping a widespread range of artists from David Bowie to U2 to R.E.M. Born in Brooklyn in 1942, Reed famously befriended the Welshman John Cale in New York City, forming a series of groups and eventually settling as the Velvet Underground, releasing the album The Velvet Underground & Nico in 1967. The band wrote songs about sex, drug use, and prostitution, while keeping a unified aesthetic appearance, which was helped into shape by Andy Warhol. The Velvet Underground released only three more albums before disbanding in 1970, but remained incredibly influential in bridging the avant-garde art scene and music world.
Reed then embarked on a solo career that saw him release Transformer (produced by David Bowie) in 1972, which included the singles "Take a Walk on the Wild Side," "Perfect Day," and "Satellite of Love." He continued his often caustic solo work until the early nineties, when he reunited with Cale on a tribute album to Andy Warhol called Songs For Drella. Reed also began a relationship with the performance artist Laurie Anderson, marrying in 2008 after several years of making music together.
His final album, which was fitting for his non-traditional career, which often saw him engaged in radically different projects, was a collaboration with Metallica.
Lou Reed was a published poet, a songwriter, a Tai Chi practitioner, and political activist. He toured until this year, when after his liver transplant he wrote that he was "bigger and stronger" than ever.