LOS ANGELES — Like many unhappy teenagers, Lou Reed found more than a measure of solace in music.
“Listening to the radio absolutely transformed me,” he told The Times in 1992. “It was like a huge, major-league signal that there was another world, another life out there … that everything wasn’t as horrible as where I was.”
A giant of rock, Reed sent the same message — as deafeningly harsh as it often was — to generations of punk aficionados and mainstream fans for nearly 50 years. The guitarist whose dark vision colored music for decades and whose 1960s group the Velvet Underground inspired musicians around the world, died Sunday in Southampton, N.Y., according to his literary agent Andrew Wylie.
First as the Velvet Underground’s principal songwriter and then as a solo artist, Reed continued to challenge musical and cultural conventions, becoming a pioneer of what came to be known as art rock and punk rock. Summing up Reed’s influence, music producer Brian Eno once said that although the Velvet Underground sold only 30,000 copies of its debut album in five years, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”
On Sunday, Greg Harris, president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, said in a statement that Reed “cultivated a singular musical aesthetic that managed to be both arty and earthy, reflecting his college-educated yet streetwise-honed rock and roll narratives.”