Lou Reed would have turned 72 years old yesterday. But I wonder just how many people my age would know this? When he passed last year in October, at 71, few people I knew could relate to my disappointment at our culture’s loss.

And yet, his influence is inescapable. I first came into contact with his music in primary school, with ‘Perfect Day’ used as a school hymn. Back then, in assembly, it seemed a chore, but realizing years later that I’d been exposed to such genius so early on, and without knowing it, made me smile. When I knowingly came across Lou Reed, it was through my father. I must have been maybe seventeen at the time, and I still have a burnt CD copy of ‘Transformer’, his 1972 album that laid it all out for me, with such emotional depth, uncompromising, brutal truth and almost arrogant quality that I haven’t been able to forget it since.

Like a modern day Oscar Wilde, Lou Reed immersed himself in alternate and transgressive cultures, throughout his life not just for the cultural, but also the intellectual provocation that it offered. Most of all, he was, himself, the epitome of transgression, and his body of work gives life to people, places, and visceral truths, as debauched as it is poetic, as instinctual as it is intellectual. His music brought us all the usual stories that we’re inundated with every day by the music industry – and, the truth is, anyone can write a love song. Lou Reed, on the other hand, brought us songs that addressed domestic violence, drug addiction, adultery, prostitution, and suicide – and that’s just ‘Berlin’. In short, he brought us songs that, even today, have the capacity to make a difference. Songs that did and have and surely will, to those who have yet to discover them, make a difference.

Personally, I’m not sure if he’d have appreciated the term legend, so I’ll call him an icon, which I believe, is what he was, but also, what he continues to be. He changed the face of music, with an astonishing adaptability and indeed, adept ability, to transgress boundaries of not only genre, but also medium. He ranged from glam rock with Velvet Underground, through to rock and roll and blues, to experimental rock, as in ‘Metal Machine Music’, and even ambient meditation music, with his last major work being a collaboration with Metallica on Lulu. Furthermore, he fused the realms of music, literature and art, with songs that were almost spoken word, in ‘The Raven’, and collections of photography including ‘Emotions in Action’ and ‘Lou Reed's New York’.

Not only was he an incredibly innovative musician, but he was also outspoken on the subject, saying at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards that "MTV should be playing more rock n' roll." He was also known to speak on New York's political issues and personalities, as well as crime, AIDS, and Pope John Paul II. This is what makes him different from so many other musicians – his intellectual sophistication, coupled with the guts to shake things up.

The evidence of this is not only in the music that he left us, but also in the company that he kept and those that can name him as an inspiration - Patti Smith, David Bowie, Morrissey, Iggy Pop, Courtney Love, Pearl Jam and the Killers all had tributes to pay on his passing – though even people as far ranging as Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi and Salman Rushdie had respects to pay.

So, as an advocate, artist, musician and icon, it seems that he has not been forgotten by his contemporaries. And it seems that future generations will not be able to forget him either, with a biography written by Rolling Stone critic Anthony DeCurtis in the pipeline as well as an archive comprising tapes, photographs, artwork, hard drives, and letters in progress.