Famed guitarist Dick Wagner died of respiratory failure this morning in Scottsdale, Ariz. at 71 years old, according to his website. He passed away after a two-week stay in intensive care caused by lung inflammation after a cardiac procedure.
Wagner was most celebrated for his work with Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, and The Frost.
In the earlier years of his Detroit career, "He was a key figure in southeastern Michigan's emergent rock scene in the 1960s" and "a go-to guitarist," the Detriot Free Press notes. He played guitar and sang with Michigan psychedelic band The Frost.
After moving to New York in the early '70s, Wagner was noticed by producer Bob Ezrin. He then moved on to work with Alice Cooper for the first time in 1972 for School's Out, followed by Lou Reed on Berlin in 1973 and Rock n Roll Animal in 1974. Wagner was subsequently launched into a string of famous collaborations with artists like Billy Joel, Peter Gabriel, Aerosmith, Hall & Oates, and Kiss. In 1977 he released a self-titled album, and in the years following he focused on songwriting, including songs for Meatloaf and Air Supply.
After a long career, Wagner moved to Arizona, where his health issues began. In 2007 he suffered a stroke and heart attack that rendered his left arm paralyzed. Despite this, Wagner was able to resume playing again in 2011, and frequently traveled to Michigan do so. He also wrote a highly acclaimed memoir, Not Only Women Bleed, Vignettes from the Heart of a Rock Musician in 2012.
Wagner played his final show in his home state just one month ago, at the Lebowsky Center in Owosso, Mich. In a fitting end to his website's memorial post, those who remember him and his work are urged to "notice all of the beauty in the world, even when it seems cruel and unfair."
His manager Suzy Michelson noted that a memorial tribute will be set in Michigan, with details to come.