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Celebrating for the Man: Lou Reed Turns 70

Lou Reed
Fernando Leon, Getty Images

The term musical genius often gets thrown around, but rarely truly applies to the artist in question. Lou Reed, who turns 70 today (March 2), is a musical genius.

As the leader of the Velvet Underground, he fittingly fronted the greatest underground band to ever exist. From 1967 through 1970, VU released four remarkable albums, none more stellar than their debut disc, ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico.’ In a just world, the Velvet Underground’s popularity should have been up there with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. But the world wasn’t ready for VU’s music at the time.

Much of the Velvet Underground’s career is tied to their involvement with Andy Warhol and the eclectic ‘superstars’ of the iconic pop artist’s Factory. But take that all away and just listen to the songs Reed penned during his time with VU, and it’s apparent that he is among the great songwriters in rock history. With tunes like ‘I’m Waiting for the Man,’ ”Femme Fatale,’ ‘Heroin’ and ‘Sweet Jane,’ Reed painted a picture of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll that was both gritty and beautiful.

That all said, the Velvet Underground haven’t gone unnoticed. After they broke up, their legend grew over the years, and the band eventually landed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nowadays, their influence is pervasive throughout the indie and alternative rock scenes.

Reed has also carved out an extraordinary solo career over the past 40 years. He has released more than 20 albums over that time, with his 1972 disc ‘Transformer’ yielding his biggest hit, ‘Walk on the Wild Side,’ along with classic cuts like ‘Satellite of Love’ and ‘Perfect Day.’

Never one to conform to convention, Reed has not been afraid to experiment musically. On occasion, those experiments have met the wrath of music critics and fans — see 1975′s study in noise, ‘Metal Machine Music,’ or last year’s collaboration with Metallica, the much maligned ‘Lulu.’

In the song ‘Heroin,’ Reed sings the opening line, ‘I don’t know where I’m goin’ / But I’m gonna try for the kingdom if I can.’ Who knows where Lou Reed is going next? But at 70 years old, he shows no sign of slowing down.

Happy 70th birthday, Lou Reed. Here’s hoping it’s a perfect day.

Listen to Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’

Listen to the Velvet Underground’s ‘Heroin’

The 10 Best Lou Reed Solo Songs

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