The cause of death was not immediately known. But Rolling Stone magazine, which reported his death, said Reed underwent a liver transplant in May.
As a founding member of The Velvet Underground, Reed was part of New York's thriving avant-garde art and music scene of the 1960s and a close associate of Andy Warhol.
The album The Velvet Underground & Nico, though never having mainstream success, is now considered one of the most influential rock albums of all time. Loaded in 1970 features two popular Reed songs, "Rock & Roll" and "Sweet Jane."
After leaving the group in 1970, Reed's solo album Transformer, produced by David Bowie, included "Wild Side," the unsentimental ode to Warhol's world. The song's famous double bass track makes it recognizable from almost the first note.
Reed, observes Rolling Stone, brought a "whole new lyrical honesty to rock & roll poetry" and that "glam, punk and alternative rock are all unthinkable without his revelatory example."
An Accountant's SonHe was one of rock's archetypal tough guys, but he grew up middle class – an accountant's son raised on Long Island. He hated school, loved rock n' roll, fought with his parents and attacked them in song for forcing him to undergo electroshock therapy as a supposed "cure" for being bisexual. "Families that live out in the suburbs often make each other cry," he later wrote.
His real break began in college. At Syracuse University, he studied under poet and short story writer Delmore Schwartz, whom Reed would call the first "great man" he ever encountered. He credited Schwartz with making him want to become a writer and to express himself in the most concrete language possible. Reed honored his mentor in the song "My House," recounting how he connected with the spirit of the late, mad poet through a Oiuja board. "Blazing stood the proud and regal name Delmore," he sang.
Reed moved to New York City after college and traveled in the pop and art worlds, working as a house songwriter at the low-budget Pickwick Records and putting in late hours in downtown clubs. One of his Pickwick songs, the dance parody "The Ostrich," was considered commercial enough to record. Fellow studio musicians included a Welsh-born viola player, John Cale, with whom Reed soon performed in such makeshift groups as the Warlocks and the Primitives.
They were joined by a friend of Reed's from Syracuse, guitarist-bassist Sterling Morrison; and by an acquaintance of Morrison's, drummer Maureen Tucker, who tapped out simple, hypnotic rhythms while playing standing up. They renamed themselves the Velvet Underground after a Michael Leigh book about the sexual subculture.
Additional reporting by ASSOCIATED PRESS
New York is a little less New York today. RIP Lou Reed.— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) October 27, 2013
So sorry to hear of Lou Reed s passing this is a huge shock!— Kim Gordon (@KimletGordon) October 27, 2013
#LouReed gone from this world today. Don't for god sake say RIP, coz we all know he's a'walking, & we all know which side he's walking on.— Simon Le Bon (@SimonJCLeBON) October 27, 2013
“heavenly wine and roses…seem to whisper to me….when you smile ..” RIP Lou Reed— Anthony Bourdain (@Bourdain) October 27, 2013
Dear Lou Reed, please rest in peace. http://t.co/OGA0OjuTDt— Feist (@FeistMusic) October 27, 2013
Devastating news:... http://t.co/LukCOL1T4r— Iggy Pop (@IggyPop) October 27, 2013
RIP Lou Reed.Thank you for your beautiful/dark lyrics/music and stance on life.You inspired me from my teenage years right up till today.— Nikki Sixx (@NikkiSixx) October 27, 2013
Deepest Gratitude Lou Reed. Peace. http://t.co/PRmDlX2hOK— mia farrow (@MiaFarrow) October 27, 2013
RIP Lou Reed. We thank you - Rock N Roll thanks you. Thank goodness the music lives forever— Langhorne Slim (@LanghorneSlim) October 27, 2013