Maestro of Rock who penned songs for Air Supply

Dick Wagner performing in Michigan last year.


Phoenix, Arizona - Rock guitarist Dick Wagner, whose prolific session work graced the albums of such acts as Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, Kiss and Aerosmith during the 1970s, died on Wednesday at age 71 in Arizona, his manager said.

The Michigan-bred musician, hailed by fans as "the Maestro of Rock", suffered from a number of health problems in his later years, including two heart attacks and a stroke.

He died at a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona, succumbing to respiratory failure about two weeks after undergoing a cardiac procedure, his manager and business partner Susan Michelson said.

He began his rock career in the 1960s with the formation of an early Detroit- area band called the Bossmen. He gained wider notice after establishing the Frost, recording his first three Billboard- charted albums with that group.

After moving to New York, he formed another band, Ursa Major, whose original but short-lived lineup included Billy Joel on keyboards, a juncture that led to Wagner's long-time association with music producer Bob Ezrin.

Teamed up by Ezrin with fellow session guitarist Steve Hunter, Wagner went on to lend his talents to Reed in the studio and on tour, including work on the seminal 1974 live album Rock 'N' Roll Animal.

Ezrin also recruited Wagner to play lead guitar solos on Cooper's breakthrough 1972 album, School's Out, performances that were credited at the time to the Alice Cooper band, according to Wagner's official website.

The Wagner-Cooper collaboration continued as Cooper went solo, starting with Welcome To My Nightmare in 1975 and lasting for several more albums and tours.

Wagner was also a co-songwriter for a number of Cooper tunes, such as Only Women Bleed, Department Of Youth, I Never Cry, Go To Hell and From The Inside.

His guitar licks were featured on releases such as Get Your Wings from Aerosmith, Destroyer from Kiss and Peter Gabriel's self-titled solo debut.

Wagner also penned songs for the likes of Meat Loaf and Air Supply.

This article was first published on August 2, 2014.
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