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Lou Reed Is Dead

Netlore Archive: Online rumors claim rock and roll innovator Lou Reed is dead at 58.

Description: Email hoax / Rumor
Circulating since: May 2001
Status: False as of 2001 (see details below)

Email text contributed by Geoff Dickens, May 8, 2001:

NEW YORK, New York (Reuters) -- A city still mourning the death of punk rock innovator Joey Ramone has endured another tragedy as Velvet Underground leader Lou Reed was found dead in his apartment last night, apparently from an overdose of the painkiller demerol.

His body was discovered at approximately 10:45 PM last night in the Chelsea apartment he was sharing with his wife, avant-garde pop musician Laurie Anderson. Paramedics responding to a 911 call attempted to resucitate Mr. Reed. Reed was declared dead at the 13th Precint morgue at 3:45 12:00 AM.

He formed the group The Velvet Underground with John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen "Moe" Tucker in New York, 1965. The group soon became a part of Andy Warhol's Factory, which housed a great number of the most outsider and experimenting artists at the time. In 1970 Lou Reed began his solo-career. His first two albums, "Lou Reed" (1971) and "Transformer" (1972) were produced by long-time admirer of the Velvets, David Bowie. That year he had his only hitsingle, "Walk on the Wildside". Through the 1970's he made a large number of albums with "Berlin" (1973), "Rock'n Roll Animal" (1974) and "Street Hassle" (1978) being the artistic highlights of this period. The following album "The Blue Mask" (1982) stands as one of his best. In 1989 he made "New York" - a loveletter to his city, with a heavy critisism of American thinking. In the 1990's he has continued to be one of the most sharp-tongued rock'n'roll poets in the USA. In 1993 The Velvet Underground was re-formed with its original line-up, and toured around the world. In 1997 Lou Reed, along with former Velvet bandmates John Cale, Maureen Tucker, and the late Sterling Morrison were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Lou Reed stands today as one of the most important songwriters in our time, and has served as inspiration to artists like David Bowie, Nick Cave, Sonic Youth, Nine Inch Nails, U2, David Byrne and Patti Smith.

Later in his life Reed became close friends with Czech president Vaclav Havel and former Secretary of State Madelaine Albright, who was frequently seen at Reed's NYC appearances. When notified of Reed's death, Albright issued this statement: "Lou Reed was a close personal friend of mine, and an inspiration for the true freedoms allowed in this country. His recent secretive abuse of painkillers and untimely death is tragic and should be used as an example for all about the dangers of narcotics. Lou Reed, I will miss you."

David Bowie made this comment to a CNN.com correspondant via phone call: "In the last several years, Lou and I had the opportunity to rekindle a friendship that has seen many ups, downs, and corners. Lou's art is a testiment to the genius and eccentricity he possessed. I would have never believed he was using again if not for this tragedy. He was in great health and great spirits, and the new material he was recording was some of the best of his career."

The record Lou Reed was working on, the prophetically titled "Angels Fly Far From Heaven Here," is said to be a thematic work about love lost and regret. Sources close to the recording process have said it to be a return to his "Berlin" style of storytelling. Almost all of Reed's vocals and guitar parts were completed before his death. Laurie Anderson and Reed's friend Phillip Glass issued a statement today commiting to finishing the record which will be released posthumously by Warner Brothers on August 14th.

Mr. Reed is survived by his wife Laurie Anderson. A private funeral ceremony is scheduled for tomorrow, at an undisclosed NYC synagogue.

Analysis: If you ignore the misspellings, bad grammar, and questionable "facts," this is a passable imitation of a real wire story - passable enough to fool several radio stations who reported it as hard news on Monday, May 7, 2001.

From the following day's Chicago Tribune:

Rumors of rocker Lou Reed's death were greatly exaggerated on Monday. But that didn't stop Chicago's WXRT, along with other radio stations around the country, from briefly reporting his demise - then quickly retracting the bad information.

It all started with a fake e-mail written like an actual bulletin from a reputable news outlet. It claimed the 58-year-old Reed had died from a drug overdose in New York. The official-looking report, which caught the music world off guard, included quotes attributed to David Bowie and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Reed's publicist released a statement on Tuesday, May 8 saying the New York singer/songwriter is "alive and well." As of this writing he is in Amsterdam working on his latest project, "POEtry," with collaborator Robert Wilson.

2013 update: Rolling Stone magazine reported on Oct. 27, 2013 that Lou Reed died of unspecified causes at the age of 71.

Sources and further reading:

  • "Lou Reed Insists He Is Alive Despite Rumors." Ananova.com, 8 May 2001.
  • "Radio Stations Fall Hoax, Line, Sinker for Reed Story." Chicago Tribune, 8 May 2001.
  • Lou Reed Bio. Rolling Stone.

Last updated 10/27/13

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