Dick Wagner, whose guitar work and songwriting brought us many hits in the 1970s with Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, KISS and Aerosmith, among others, died July 30 at a hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz., at the age of 71.
Wagner played in his native Michigan in the bands the Bossmen and Frost before moving to New York and forming a short-lived band, Ursa Major, with Billy Joel on keyboards. Soon after, in 1973, he recorded and toured with Lou Reed. His guitar symmetry with fellow guitarist Steve Hunter can be heard on Reed’s 1973 solo album Berlinand on the live album Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal. The intro to “Sweet Jane” (check out the embedded YouTube) is a great example of his talent. Later he joined forces with Alice Cooper, penning the hits “Only Women Bleed,” “You and Me” and “I Never Cry.”
Wagner was a dedicated Gibson Les Paul player. In an interview with Gibson he spoke about first falling in love with goldtop Les Pauls. He never got himself a goldtop, but he did start a long relationship with the Les Paul model and acquired several sunburst LPs and a Les Paul Black Beauty. And while he also played Gibson ES-335 hollow body guitars, his favorite axe was his 1968 Gibson Les Paul Standard:
“It’s got a voice… well, it’s hard to describe it, it’s so beautiful. It’s right up there with any of the ’50s Les Pauls. You plug that thing in and it just sings. You can’t help but play good.”
For all your tireless efforts to further the mighty cause of rock and roll, we salute you, Dick Wagner. You brought us great songs and wowed us with your artistry. May you rest in peace.