There can be few artists still performing that have been as influential as birthday boy, Lou Reed who turns 69 today. Topics such as drug use, homosexuality and decadence had never been so explicitly explored in music before the arrival in the mid 60's of The Velvet Underground.
Yes his back catalogue is extremely inconsistent but it would be hard to fault his most enduring accomplishments with the Velvets. Mostly unappreciated during their brief existence The Velvet Underground with Reed at the helm produced 4 albums worth of innovative and essential music. Sister Ray, What Goes On, Waiting For The Man, Lisa Says, Pale Blue Eyes, Sweet Jane...there is not much on these 4 albums that does not stand the test of time.
It was Reed's second solo album, Transformer, that eventually brought him into public consciousness giving him his only major hit with Walk On The Wild Side. Then to counter his newly accquired success, in the mid 70's Reed released one of the most unlistenable pieces of "music" ever released in the shape of Metal Machine Music.
There were some half decent songs released over the next 15 years or so but it wasn't until 1989 that Reed released the album that many consider to his finest solo offering in New York where Reed's anger is directed at those responsible for the social malaise in his home city. Full of poignant and colourful imagery with a stripped back garage sound this is Lou Reed at his best with some of the best lyrics he ever penned taking in topics such as child abuse, the destruction of the enviroment and TV evangelism. You even get Mo Tucker playing on the Andy Warhol tribute, Dime Store Mystery.
Ultimately he will probably be remembered more for his groundbreaking work with The Velvet Underground but at 69 Lou Reed is still pushing himself to create work with meaning and hopefully will continue to do so for a while yet.