Born Lewis Allan Reed in Brooklyn, Reed received electroconvulsive therapy as a teenager to cure his bisexuality, and later wrote the song "Kill Your Sons" about the experience.
Reed studied at Syracuse University and went on to form The Velvet Underground in the 1960s. The band, which often collaborated with artist Andy Warhol, is widely hailed as one of if not the most influential American band of all time. The group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
After The Velvet Underground disbanded, Reed moved to England and embarked on a successful solo career in the early 1970s, with hits including "Walk on the Wild Side."
Reed is survived by his wife, performance artist Laurie Anderson, whom he married in 2008.