Lou Reed, the legendary singer, guitarist and frontman of The Velvet Underground has died.

The 71-year-old, responsible for the likes of Walk on the Wild Side and Perfect Day, had undergone treatment for a life-saving liver transplant earlier this year.

He died of a liver-related ailment, his agent confirmed tonight.

lou reed

The Velvet Underground, who were active in the 1960s and 1970s, became known for their fusion of art and music, including collaborations with the godfather of Pop Art, Andy Warhol.

Despite modest sales during their time together, the band developed a cult following and enjoyed posthumous acclaim for years after their final performance together. The band are regularly cited as among the greatest influences on contemporary rock music.

But Reed's lyrics also drew criticism from those troubled with the content of some Velvet Underground songs - with themes of sexual ambivalence, sadomasochism and drug use described as particularly unpalatable.

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Reed, who was notoriously difficult to interview, also spoke at length of his past alcohol and drug use, anecdotally recalled in the likes of the seven-minute ode to the class A drug Heroin while Venus in Furs and I'm Waiting for the Man also provoked concern from those of a conservative disposition.

As a solo artist, his work was revered, with singles from his David Bowie-produced Transformer album going on to score countless television programmes often unsuited and completely unconnected to the songs' lyrical content.

It was an album which spawned Walk on the Wild Side - a tale of transsexual lust partly veiled by a soothing double bass, searing saxophone coda and serene backing vocals - and featured promiscuous artwork of a male model in a cowboy hat, believed - but unconfirmed - to be Reed.

Perhaps his greatest recognition came, bizarrely, with the help of M People singer Heather Small, who was one of several contributor vocalists on a cover version of Transformer's Perfect Day, re-recorded for charity in 1997. The record spent three weeks at number one.

More recently, Reed enjoyed chart success with Lulu, a musical collaboration with metal band Metallica.

Tributes flooded in from the world of showbiz tonight.

Singer Marianne Faithfull said: "He was a great friend, musician, songwriter and band leader. One of the most intelligent musicians I've ever known and a great guitarist. His songs will live for ever....Perfect Day, Sweet Jane... In my opinion he was a genius. I will miss him terribly."

Guitarist and song-writer Nile Rodgers said: "Lou Reed, R.I.P. I did the Jools Holland show with him last year and we yucked it up. I didn't know he was ill."

Comedian Ricky Gervais said: "RIP Lou Reed. One of the greatest artists of our time."

Actor Samuel L Jackson added: "R.I.P. Lou Reed. Just met at the GQ Awards. The music of my generation. Still Relevant!"

Chat show host Jonathan Ross wrote on Twitter: "RIP Lou Reed. A great talent, a nice man, a sad day."

The last tweet sent by Reed on his official Twitter account, hours before news of his death emerged, simply said "The Door". The tweet links through to a picture of a door, with a poster of Reed on it.

Earlier this year Reed's wife Laurie Anderson told the Times newspaper that he ''was dying'' before the operation in April at Ohio's Cleveland Clinic.

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  • 2010 Public Theater Gala

    NEW YORK - JUNE 21: Musician Lou Reed attends the 2010 Public Theater Gala at the Delacorte Theater on June 21, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

  • The Weinstein And Alliance Pictures Party For "Miral" Hosted By TOD'S - 2010 Toronto International Film Festival

    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 13: Musician Lou Reed attends The Weinstein and Alliance Pictures Party for 'Miral' hosted by TOD'S held at the Art Gallery of Toronto during the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival on September 13, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for TOD's)

  • Lou Reed Exhibition Opening

    FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 03: Lou Reed looks on during his exhibition at the Frank Landau Gallery on November 3, 2012 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. (Photo by Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images)

  • Lou Reed Exhibition Opening

    FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 03: Lou Reed looks on during his photo exhibition at Frank Landau Gallery on November 3, 2012 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. (Photo by Hannelore Foerster/Getty Images)

  • Lou Reed Presents His Photography Exhibition in Madrid

    MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 16: Lou Reed presents his photography exhibition at the Matadero cultural center on November 16, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

  • Lou Reed Presents His Photography Exhibition in Madrid

    MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 16: Lou Reed presents his photography exhibition at the Matadero cultural center on November 16, 2012 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

  • In this Oct. 24, 2011 photo, Metallica members James Hetfield, left, and Lars Ulrich, right, pose with musician Lou Reed in New York. Metallica and Reed teamed up for Reed's latest release, "Lulu." (AP Photo/John Carucci)

  • CORRECTS ID AT RIGHT TO GUITARIST KIRK HAMMETT, NOT BASS PLAYER ROBERT TRUJILLO - Kirk Hammett, guitarist of US heavy metal band Metallica, right, performs together with US rock musician Lou Reed, left, during a concert to promote their new album 'Lulu' in Cologne, Germany Friday Nov. 11, 2011. (AP Photo/ dapd/Roberto Pfeil)

  • Willie Nile

    CORRECTION TO REMOVE REFERENCE TO "THE INNOCENT ONES" BEING NILE'S FIRST ALBUM IN TEN YEARS - In this Nov. 1, 2008 photo provided by John Cavanaugh, Willie Nile performs at the “Light of Day” benefit concert at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, N.J. Nile, whose three decade career has won him admirers like Bono, Lou Reed, and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, has released "The Innocent Ones," which includes a charity component. (AP Photo/John Cavanaugh) NO SALES

  • Lou Reed

    Musician Lou Reed leaves the funeral service for 9-year-old Lily Badger and 7-year-old twins Grace and Sarah Badger at St. Thomas Episcopal Church Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012 in New York. Hundreds of people streamed into the historic church in the heart of Manhattan on Thursday for the funeral of three young girls who died along with their grandparents during a Christmas morning fire in Stamford, Conn. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

  • 'Phil Spector' Premiere - New York

    Lou Reed attends the HBO premiere of 'Phil Spector' at The Time Warner Center in New York City.

  • Lou Reed

    FILE- In this Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009 file photo, Lou Reed performs at the Lollapalooza music festival, in Chicago. Lou Reed's wife says the rock icon is recovering after a life-saving liver transplant, according to an interview published Saturday, June 1, 2013, in a British newspaper. Laurie Anderson told the Times of London that Reed “was dying” before the operation in April at Ohio's Cleveland Clinic. (AP Photo/John Smierciak, File)

  • Lou Reed

    FILE- In this Sunday, Aug. 9, 2009 file photo, Lou Reed performs at the Lollapalooza music festival, in Chicago. Lou Reed's wife says the rock icon is recovering after a life-saving liver transplant, according to an interview published Saturday, June 1, 2013, in a British newspaper. Laurie Anderson told the Times of London that Reed “was dying” before the operation in April at Ohio's Cleveland Clinic. (AP Photo/John Smierciak, File)

  • Lou Reed, Richard Belzer

    Lou Reed, left, and Richard Belzer attend the "Breaking Bad" final episodes premiere hosted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center on Wednesday, July 31, 2013, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)