Guitarist Dick Wagner died Wednesday of respiratory failure at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center. He was 71.
Wagner had been in ICU at the Arizona medical center for the last several weeks. He had been living in Arizona since 2004.
The guitarist was best known for writing, playing and recording with Alice Cooper as well as artists including Lou Reed, Peter Gabriel and Kiss.
“It really is so sad,” said Wagner’s manager and business partner Susan Michelson. “He survived so many things and we hoped he would do it again. He had asthma and he’d been complaining about his chest bothering him again. But he went in to have a coronary procedure done that turned out to be more complex than they thought. He seemed fine for a couple of days and then his lungs just started to freak out.”
Wagner was born December 14, 1942 in Oelwein, IA and grew up in the Saginaw, MI area. In 1969 he released an album on Vanguard Records with his band The Frost, of which he was the songwriter, arranger and lead singer.
In 1972 he moved to New York, joining Billy Joel’s band and in 1973 he was recruited by producer Bob Ezrin for Lou Reed’s band.
Wagner played the memorable guitar solo on Alice Cooper’s song “My Stars” on the School’s Out album and continued to play lead on every Alice Cooper album that followed, through the break up of the original group. When the group parted ways in 1974, Wagner became Cooper’s principal co-writer, lead guitarist and band director.
In 1978 he released a solo LP title Richard Wagner on Atlantic Records.
Throughout his career, Wagner also played on the albums of artists such as KISS, Peter Gabriel, Air Supply, Hall & Oates, and Burton Cummings. He also wrote for various artists and is perhaps best known for his song “Only Women Bleed” which appeared on Cooper’s album Welcome to My Nightmare and has since been covered by more than 30 other artists including Tina Turner, Etta James, and Guns N’ Roses.
Wagner has been involved in a number of charitable causes including being the first Artist Ambassador for Guitars for Vets and a spokesperson for Hydrocephalus.org. In 2013, Wagner released his song and video tribute “If I Had the Time (I Could Change The World)” to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The recording featured more than 50 musicians that Wagner had recruited.
In a statement on his Facebook page, Alice Cooper wrote, “Even though we know it’s inevitable, we never expect to suddenly lose close friends and collaborators. Dick Wagner and I shared as many laughs as we did hit records. He was one of a kind. He is irreplaceable. His brand of playing and writing is not seen anymore, and there are very few people that I enjoyed working with as much as I enjoyed working with Dick Wagner.
“A lot of my radio success in my solo career had to do with my relationship with Dick Wagner. Not just on stage, but in the studio and writing. Some of my biggest singles were ballads what I wrote with Dick Wagner. Most of “Welcome To My Nightmare” was written with Dick. There was just a magic in the way we wrote together. He was always able to find exactly the right chord to match perfectly with what I was doing.
“I think that we always think our friends will be around as long as we are, so to hear of Dick’s passing comes as a sudden shock and an enormous loss for me, Rock N Roll and to his family.”