Lou Reed, the tragically hip, eternally cool songwriter and musician whose friendships, collaborations and rivalries with the likes of John Cale, David Bowie and Iggy Pop helped define, expand and elevate rock music from the mid-'60s to the present, has died. Reed's death was confirmed to The New York Times by his literary agent, who said he had died earlier Sunday on Long Island. He was 71 and had received a liver transplant earlier this year.
Along with Cale, Sterling Morrison -- who much later became a UT-Austin professor and tugboat captain in the Houston Ship Channel -- and drummer Angus MacLise (quickly replaced by Morrison's friend Maureen Tucker), Reed founded the Velvet Underground in 1964 in New York City. Although not a great commercial success at first, their streetwise narratives and relentless experimentation helped sow the seeds of a form of rock that would see much greater mainstream popularity starting in the late '80s. The band's 1967 debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico also made them the most iconic New York band until the Ramones came along a decade later.