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Alice Cooper's Former Guitarist Has Died. says Dick Wagner died in Phoenix on Wednesday of respiratory failure.  The Iowa-born, Michigan-raised rocker had been hospitalized for an operation to open up an artery, but developed a lung infection following the surgery.  He was in a medically-induced coma when he died.  Wagner was 71. 

While Wagner is perhaps best remembered for his work with Alice Cooper, over the course of his lengthy career he performed with many classic rock legends.  He made his breakthrough in the early 1970s as a member of Lou Reed's band. 

Wagner first worked with Cooper on the 1972 album School's Out, officially joining Cooper's band two years later.  He remained with Alice for nearly a decade. 

In a statement Alice says he and Wagner "shared as many laughs" as hits, adding that Dick was "one of a kind," irreplaceable," and one of his "close friends and collaborators."  He praises the guitarist's talents, saying Wagner's "brand of playing and writing is not seen anymore."  Cooper explains that there was "just a magic" in the way they wrote together, and that Dick was "always able to find exactly the right chord to match perfectly" with what Alice was doing.  Wagner was a member of Cooper's band for nearly a decade in the 1970s and '80s.  Their best-known collaboration is the hit "Only Women Bleed," from Cooper's album Welcome To My Nightmare.


Aerosmith, Hall & Oates, KISS, and Air Supply are just some of the many other stars who employed Wagner's playing and songwriting skills over the years. 

KISS' Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are also expressing their sadness at Wagner's death, and praising his talents.  Simmons says Dick was "the consummate gentleman axeman," who provided a "blistering" solo on KISS' song "Sweet Pain."  Paul Stanley also makes note of Dick's "uncredited ghosting" on the "Destroyer" album.  He adds that Wagner was "a huge talent with a huge tone and huge heart," and "a great unsung hero."

Wagner suffered from poor health in recent years.  He had a near-fatal heart attack in 2007, and was misdiagnosed with dementia which left him sidelined for several years.  Dick released his memoir, Not Only Women Bleed: Vignettes From the Heart of a Rock Musician.  

He played his last show just a month ago, performing in Owosso, Michigan on June 29th.  Wagner's manager says a memorial service, which will take place in Michigan, is in the works. 

Photo: Getty Images