Raised in the suburbs of Chicago, Gallagher attended Northwestern University and the University of Illinois. Over the years, he served as musical director-arranger-accompanist for such performers as Patti LuPone, Karen Akers, Karen Mason, Liliane Montevecchi, Phillip Officer, David Staller, Helen Baldassare, and Lina Koutrakos, winning many awards from the Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs (MAC) for his efforts. As an accompanist for these and other artists, he played at Carnegie Hall, The Town Hall, the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel, Rainbow & Stars, and other high-profile venues.
Gallagher co-wrote Whoop-Dee-Do and When Pigs Fly, two hit Off-Broadway shows conceived by Howard Crabtree. "Laughting Matters," a Dick Gallagher-Mark Waldrop song from When Pigs Fly, was recorded by Bette Midler and included on her album Bathhouse Betty. Gallagher also wrote the music and lyrics for Have I Got a Girl for You...The Frankenstein Musical, and he won a Richard Rodgers award for his show Whatnot.
Said Patti LuPone in tribute to Gallagher, "I never knew what true communication through music could be until Dicky and I began working together. He elevated me as a singer; he elevated me as a human being. His talent was boundless; his humor, dry and treacherous. His love, his care, and his dignity made him an extraordinarily special person in my, and my family's, lives. Dicky, I will miss you as long as I live."
A memorial service for Gallagher will be held on Sunday, January 23, at 6pm at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home (1076 Madison Avenue at 81st Street). In lieu of flowers, friends are asked to make donations to The Actors' Fund of America in Gallagher's name.