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With The Velvet Underground — which started out as the house band for Andy Warhol’s mixed-media studio The Factory — Reed sang and wrote such landmark songs as “Heroin,” “Sister Ray,” “Sweet Jane,” “Rock & Roll,” “Venus in Furs,” “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” “What Goes On” and “Lisa Says.”
After exiting the group in 1970, the acidic Reed perfected his sparse, trademark monotone in delivering such hits as “Perfect Day,” “Walk on the Wild Side,” “Satellite of Love” and “Dirty Blvd.”
Below, listen to five of his most memorable songs.
“Rock & Roll”
This song was featured in the 1970 album Loaded. It’s also been featured in movies such as Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, was covered by Jane’s Addiction (among other artists) and revived to great acclaim with a two-guitar attack on his live “rock ‘n’ roll animal” album.
Also featured on 1970’s Loaded, Reed continued to perform this song in concert after he left the group. It’s been covered by groups ranging from Phish to The Cowboy Junkies, Mott the Hoople to Red Hot Chili Peppers.
“Walk on the Wild Side”
After leaving The Velvet Underground, he embarked on a solo career and released this song in 1973, which became a hit and probably his best known song, produced and arranged by David Bowie and his guitarist Mick Ronson. It was featured on Transformer, Reed’s second solo album following his departure from The Velvet Underground, and boosted his solo career. The song was later sampled by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch and A Tribe Called Quest, to name two.
This song also was featured on Transformer. It was “rediscovered” in the 1990s after appearing in the 1996 film Trainspotting. Reed later rerecorded the song for his 2003 album The Raven. (Duran Duran covered it in 1995.) More recently, “Perfect Day” made the news when Britain’s Got Talent phenom Susan Boyle covered the song. At first, her request to record the tune was rejected, but then Reed had a change of heart and even helped shape her music video.
“Satellite of Love”
This hit, on Reed’s solo album Transformer, was produced by David Bowie. U2 later covered the cross-generations song. Used in movies like Velvet Goldmine and Adventureland, where Ryan Reynolds hilariously misquotes the lyrics, it was heard in Gilmore Girls and radio talk show Ron and Fez.
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