Pioneering American rock musician and former Velvet Underground singer Lou Reed dies

Hugely influential guitarist and songwriter suffered serious health problems earlier this year but cause of death has not yet been confirmed

The American rock musician Lou Reed died earlier today, it has been confirmed.

Reed's literary agent Andrew Wylie says the musician died on Sunday morning in Southampton at the age of 71 of an ailment related to his recent liver transplant.

Online tributes were already pouring in on social media after a message sent earlier in the day on Reed's Twitter and Facebook pages read simply "The Door."

Reed gained a significant cult following in the late 1960s with the Velvet Underground, before embarking on a solo career which would see him become one of rock’s greatest ever stars.

The Velvet Underground never achieved much commercial success, but revolutionized rock in the 1960s and 70s with a mixture of thrashing guitar licks and smooth melodies sung by Reed or the sultry German model Nico, who briefly collaborated with the band at Warhol's insistence.

The 1972 album Transformer, produced by David Bowie, included the radio hit “Walk on the Wild Side” – the song that would become his signature.

Famed for his excessive drug use and quintessential rock lifestyle, Reed was nonetheless prolific throughout the 1970s, as the albums Sally Can’t Dance (1974), Metal Machine Music (1975) and Take No Prisoners (1978) followed.

In the 1980s, Reed began to mellow, though the 1982 album The Blue Mask, following his marriage to Sylvia Morales, was hailed as his best work since Transformer.

The Velvet Underground reunited in 1994, and successfully embarked on a European tour. In 1999, Reed divorced Morales, and a few years later began a relationship with the musician and performing artist Laurie Anderson. They married in 2008.

Continuing to work into the 2000s, Reed fully denounced his hedonistic past by becoming an active follower of T-ai Chi. He released an ambient album called Hudson River Wind Meditations, only returning to mainstream rock briefly with a Metallica collaboration entitled Lulu.

An admitted hard drinker and drug user for many years, Reed underwent a liver transplant earlier this year at the Cleveland Mayo Clinic, his wife, Laurie Anderson, told The Times, after he had canceled five California concert dates scheduled in April.

"I am a triumph of modern medicine," Reed posted on his website on June 1, 2013, without directly acknowledging the transplant. "I look forward to being on stage performing, and writing more songs to connect with your hearts and spirits and the universe well into the future."

Reed is survived by Anderson, his wife.

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