August 2, 2014 7:13 am

Rock guitarist Dick Wagner dies at 71

Dick Wagner, pictured in April 2013.

Mike Coppola / Getty Images

NEW YORK — Dick Wagner, the skilled guitarist who worked with Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, Kiss and Aerosmith, and also co-wrote many of Cooper’s hits, died of respiratory failure Wednesday, his personal manager and business partner said Friday. He was 71.

Susan Michelson, Wagner’s partner in Desert Dreams Productions, said the performer died at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center in Arizona. He had been there for three weeks, Michelson said.

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Wagner was born on Dec. 14, 1942, and grew up in Michigan. His website said he went on tour with Reed in 1973 and joined Cooper a year later. He co-wrote the Cooper hits “Only Women Bleed,” `’You and Me” and “I Never Cry.” He also worked as Cooper’s musical director.

Wagner’s website said the guitarist had many health issues, surviving two heart attacks, a stroke, a paralyzed left arm, kidney failure and diabetes.

“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,” Wagner’s family and Desert Dreams said in a joint statement. “His creativity and passion will live on forever in the legacy he has left for us, in his music and his words. We have so much of him to celebrate.”

Wagner formed the band The Bossmen in Michigan, but had his first real taste of success came with the band The Frost, whose albums placed on the Billboard charts.

He then moved to New York and formed Ursa Major, a short-lived band that included Wagner on guitar and Billy Joel on keyboard. Wagner’s website said drama in “Billy’s personal life intervened and he left the band.”

Wagner eventually relocated to Phoenix and started Desert Dreams in 2005 with Michelson, whom he met in the late 1970s when working with Cooper.

Wagner is survived by his daughter, Jasmine Dreame Wagner, and his sons, Robert Wagner and Mark Schuknecht. A memorial in Michigan is being planned, Michelson said.

© The Associated Press, 2014

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