Lou Reed's work with Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground helped make Rock music post-modern. To make the performance something more than just a show.
Reed later worked with Bowie on a pretty great album.
I listened to Berlin way too much when I was younger. It's just a great album.
To say his career had ups and downs is an understatement. He had some of the greatest live bands ever work for him, his Rock and Roll Animal band is pretty great. By the late 80s his career came to an uptick after getting sober. He pushed for a more stripped down sound. And lyrically he began writing just great songs. His live music from this time is just great.
Then the Velvet Underground did a reunion tour. They sounded great, as few rock groups can after such a long time. Reed, a mix of classically trained musician and yet beat/pulp lit fan, in effect changed what people could talk about in pop and rock music. By the time the Beatles were saying they wanted to turn you on Reed had already written heroin. When concept albums were getting bigger and bigger Reed's Berlin got so small it's claustrophobic.
A huge link to an important time in music and culture is now gone.