Axe Icon Dick Wagner Dies at 71

Alice Cooper, Kiss, Aerosmith and Lou Reed collaborator passes away after heart surgery.

Ultimate Guitar

Iconic rock guitarist, bandleader and songwriter Dick Wagner has died at the age of 71, it's been confirmed (via Classic Rock).

He's respected for being a driving force in Alice Cooper's band during his "School's Out" and "Welcome to My Nightmare" era of the 1970s. He wrote classic track "Only Women Bleed," which has been covered by more than 30 artists since its 1975 release.

He'd already been leader of Lou Reed's band and had worked with Billy Joel before tying up with Cooper. He later worked in the studio with Aerosmith and performed and composed with artists including Peter Gabriel, Rod Stewart, Grand Funk Railroad and many others.

Wagner, who'd rekindled his working relationship with Cooper in recent years, had been ill for some time. He'd undergone heart surgery earlier this month, after fighting back from a severe heart attack in 2007 – and although vowing to "play for you all again one day soon" he was in a medically-induced coma when he passed away last night.

KISS star Gene Simmons has acknowledged Wagner's guitar solo on "Sweet Pain" from the band's acclaimed "Destroyer" album and says: "He was the consummate gentleman axeman; he will be missed."

Steve Hunter, Wagner's partner guitarist in Reed's band during his Berlin period, says: "We played together like none other I've ever experienced. It was truly a phenomenon."

His family have posted a statement on his website, saying: "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 for ever in the legacy he has left for us.

"He was prolific not only in the tangible realm of what we can see and hear, but in the boundless energy of his spirite. 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 his advice into your own hearts, and notice all of the beauty in the world, even when it seems cruel and unfair."

28 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Well god damn. This guy went everywhere and did everything with everyone. Fantastic guitarist. RIP
    Never like to hear about the death of iconic musicians, or really anyone for that matter Rest peacefully
    Any guitarist will agree that the schools out riff is friggen iconic, and thats coming from one that likes eric clapton and whitechapel RIP
    Yabba Who
    He didn't write School's Out, nor any of the songs on that album. He did a solo on one track. Doesn't take anything away from the guy. Welcome to my Nightmare is one of the most epic albums of all-time, and later he wrote some amazing stuff on Alice Cooper Goes to Hell and From the Inside. A true icon.
    A real shame, I was hoping he was going to recover and do some more work with Alice.
    His performance on Lou Reed's Rock 'n' Roll Animal is absolutely amazing. He and Steve Hunter just absolutely tear it up on that album.
    Very sad news. Welcome to My Nightmare is my favourite Alice Cooper album. God bless.
    Rest in peace Mr. Dick
    What? Why would this get downvoted
    His name is Dick Wagner, so Mr. Dick isn't a sensible name to call him. If you said "Rest in peace Mr. Wagner", you probably would have gotten upvotes.
    Guess he got the axe
    Bummer This was a less known performance of his, but one of my favorites:
    Very sad news. Lot of great musicians passing away lately. RIP Richard Allen "Dick" Wagner, you will be missed. PS. Just saying, but RIP Dick sounds a lot funnier than it should be given the circumstances.