In Memoriam

The Northwest Music World Floods the Internet with Tributes to Richard Swift

Oregon musician and producer Richard Swift died July 3 at age 41. Online, his community mourned the loss.

By Eden Dawn July 6, 2018

Richard Swift on tour in Arendal, Norway, in 2012.

Richard Swift, an integral part of the Oregon music community, died on July 3 at age 41. With a career as robust as his personality, Swift influenced the music world on multiple levels. There was his solo work from 2003 beauty The Novelist to his final play-it-a-thousand-times-and-it’s-still-perfect Atlantic Ocean. He spent years touring as a member of the Shins, the Black Keys, and the Arcs. But he also founded his own recording studio, National Freedom, in Cottage Grove, Oregon, working as a producer with a long list of bands like Pure Bathing Culture, Foxygen, Damien Jurado, Mynabirds, and Sharon Van Etten.

It was a tough hit in our close-knit music community, with many members who've worked with Swift in multiple capacities over the years. Online, the tributes poured out.

From former Shins bandmate James Mercer:

Pure Bathing Culture:


o powerful western fallen star we love you always thank you so much 🎶🎶🎶🖤

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Dave Depper of Menomena, Fruit Bats, and Death Cab for Cutie:


It’s not any sort of exaggeration to state that Richard Swift was the most talented person I’ve ever met, some impossible amalgamation of Harry Nilsson, Paul McCartney, and Levon Helm, beyond soulful on any instrument he picked up, and a writer of hilarious, heartbreaking, funky, psychedelic songs. He was the archetypal court jester with a maniacal glint in his eye that just said “I’m not sure where we’re going, but just trust me.” For so long, he was a cult artist, a unique Oregon treasure, but it’s no wonder that his secret finally got out, resulting in just about everybody on Earth wanting just a thimbleful of his magic on their records over the past few years. What he brought was unquantifiable, but unmistakably Swift. He’s responsible for my favorite 45 minutes of live music I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing, at Pickathon in 2011, a joyous explosion of soul that left an indelible mark on everybody who was in attendance. I think about it often. I’d give anything to experience it again. On a personal note, I owe Richard a huge debt of gratitude for recommending me for the Ray LaMontagne gig five years ago, an endorsement he certainly did not need to make, but one that profoundly changed the course of my professional life. My love to Richard’s friends, and sweet, sweet family. What a loss. I’ll be playing “Lady Luck” today, loudly.

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Ben Gibbard, Death Cab for Cutie:

Rachel Demy, tour manager and photographer:

Musician Laura Gibson:

Jose Medeles of the Breeders, Modest Mouse, and Face to Face:


Beautiful soul. You'll be missed. #richardswift

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Eric Johnson of the Fruit Bats:


nobody else like him ever.... good night my friend, I love you. ❤️

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"here we go..." 🖤🖤

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