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Lou Reed recovering after liver transplant: wife

US rock legend Lou Reed is recovering from a life-saving liver transplant, his wife, performance artist Laurie Anderson, revealed in an interview.

The 71-year-old singer, who was the driving force behind The Velvet Underground, was close to death before the operation in Cleveland, Ohio last month, Anderson told Britain's The Times newspaper.

"It's as serious as it gets. He was dying," said Anderson.

She described the operation as "a big surgery which went very well".

Asked how long it would take her husband to recover, the 65-year-old added: "I don't think he'll ever totally recover from this, but he'll certainly be back to doing [things] in a few months.

"He's already working and doing t'ai chi."

Reed had cancelled a string of concerts in April.

Anderson said he had opted to have the operation in Cleveland over New York because the city's hospitals were too "dysfunctional".

Reed has spoken extensively of his problems with drugs and alcohol over the years.

"I tried to give up drugs by drinking," he wrote in 1992. "It didn't work."

He and Anderson have been together for 21 years but only married five years ago.