Lou Reed, the principal singer in the Velvet Underground, a band that had profound impact on the high-I.Q., low-virtuosity stratum of alternative and underground rock around the world, has died. He was 71.
“He was as great an artist as it’s possible to be, in my opinion,” his agent Mr. Wylie said.
Mr. Wylie said he believed that Mr. Reed’s death was related to a liver transplant he had this year.
“He died peacefully, with his loved ones around him,” Dr. Charles Miller, Mr. Reed’s liver transplant doctor, said.
Mr. Reed was in Ohio earlier this week for treatment at Cleveland Clinic, the hospital where he had liver transplant surgery, Dr. Miller said. But he decided to return to New York after the doctors could no longer treat his end-stage liver disease.
“We did everything we could,” said Dr. Miller, the director of the hospital’s Transplantation Center. “He really wanted to be at home.”
Mr. Reed played the sport of alienating listeners, defending the right to contradict himself in hostile interviews, to contradict his transgressive image by idealizing sweet or old-fashioned values in word or sound, or to present intuition as blunt logic.
He is survived by his wife, Laurie Anderson, a songwriter and a performance artist.
“I’ve always believed that there’s an amazing number of things you can do through a rock ‘n’ roll song,” he once told the journalist Kristine McKenna, “and that you can do serious writing in a rock song if you can somehow do it without losing the beat. The things I’ve written about wouldn’t be considered a big deal if they appeared in a book or movie.”
Sober since the 1980s and a practitioner of Tai Chi, Mr. Reed had a liver transplant in May in Cleveland. “I am a triumph of modern medicine, physics and chemistry,” he wrote in a public statement upon his release. “I am bigger and stronger than ever.” Less than a month later, he wrote a review of Kanye West’s album “Yeezus” for the online publication The Talkhouse, celebrating its abrasiveness and returning once more to “Metal Machine Music” to explain an artist’s deepest motives.
“I have never thought of music as a challenge — you always figure the audience is at least as smart as you are,” he wrote. “You do this because you like it, you think what you’re making is beautiful. And if you think it’s beautiful, maybe they think it’s beautiful.”