-- Dick Wagner, the virtuoso rock guitarist known for his work with Alice Cooper and Lou Reed, passed away on Wednesday morning in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the age of 71. The Detroit Free Press reports that Wagner died of respiratory failure at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center, after spending two weeks in the facility's intensive care unit following heart surgery.
Wagner played on many of Cooper's albums during the 1970s and '80s, and co-wrote many of the shock rocker's songs, including such well-known tunes as "Only Woman Bleed," "I Never Cry" and "You and Me." In addition, he lent his guitar talents to Reed's acclaimed albums Berlin and Rock 'n' Roll Animal, and also worked with such other stars as Aerosmith, KISS, Peter Gabriel, Daryl Hall & John Oates and Rod Stewart. Dick battled a number of health issues in recent years. In 2007, he suffered a heart attack and a stroke. Then, in 2011 he was diagnosed with NPH, or normal pressure hydrocephalus, a condition caused by a build-up of spinal fluid in the brain that left him partially paralyzed. The condition was successfully treated with a shunt in his brain, and Wagner was able to return to music again during the last few years.
Wagner wrote a well-received autobiography in 2012 titled Not Only Women Bleed: Vignettes from the Heart of a Rock Musician, and last year he wrote and produced a star-studded benefit single titled "If I Had the Time (I Could Change the World)" that raised money for the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. He also remained active as a producer, songwriter and recording artist in conjunction with a multi-faceted music company he co-founded called Desert Dreams Records.
Wagner's family and Desert Dreams Records posted a message paying homage to the rocker on his official website that reads, "Dick had a huge heart, which is perhaps why it gave him so much trouble, it was simply too full of love, of music and life. His creativity and passion will live on forever in the legacy he has left for us, in his music and his words."
The tribute continues, "He was a fighter, but in the end his body couldn't keep up with his spirit, and so he lays to rest. Dick said in 2013, 'Love is in the air. Breathe deep.' Take Dick's advice into your own hearts, and notice all of the beauty in the world, even when it seems cruel and unfair."
Wagner's manager and business partner Suzy Michaelson tells the Detroit Free Press that a memorial event for Dick will be organized in Michigan, where he grew up.
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