The Velvet Underground

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About The Velvet Underground

No band in the late ’60s was more radical than The Velvet Underground. Beginning with its 1967 debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico, the group founded in New York City by guitarist Lou Reed and experimental violist John Cale democratized the avant-garde while simultaneously elevating rock music to art status. Peak moments like “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” “Heroin,” “White Light/White Heat,” and the searing “Sister Ray” folded minimalist drones into Bo Diddley chugging to forge a startlingly new language. Reed’s lyrics—especially while the band was under the mentorship of Andy Warhol—exposed the rock world to underground art and queer culture. Yet he also penned prosaic love songs and primal proto-punk with equal brilliance. Punk soaked up VU’s street-bred attitude, indie rock absorbed its feedback hypnotics, and goth borrowed wholesale from Nico’s intensely forlorn ballads. Ultimately, though, The Velvet Underground’s biggest gift was to give future generations of arty weirdos and outsiders the permission to create music that proudly defies mainstream conformity.

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