Lewis Allan "Lou" Reed was born March 2, 1942 is the American rock musician best known as the guitarist, vocalist and principal songwriter of The Velvet Underground as well as a successful solo artist whose career has spanned several decades. The Velvet Underground gained little mainstream attention during their career, but became one of the most influential bands of their era. As the Velvet Underground's main songwriter, Reed wrote about subjects of personal experience that rarely had been examined so openly in rock and roll, including a variety of sexual topics and drug culture. As a guitarist, he was a pioneer of many guitar effects including distortion, high volume feedback, and nonstandard tunings.
Reed began a solo career in 1971. He had a hit the following year with "Walk on the Wild Side", although for more than a decade he evaded the mainstream commercial success its chart status offered him. Reed's work as a solo artist has frustrated critics wishing for a return of The Velvet Underground. The most notable example is 1975's infamous double LP of recorded feedback loops, Metal Machine Music, upon which Reed later commented: "No one is supposed to be able to do a thing like that and survive." By the late 1980s, however, he had garnered recognition by the music community as an elder statesman of rock.