Musician and producer Richard Swift died this morning, July 3, in hospice care in Tacoma, Washington. Swift had what was described as a “serious medical condition” according to a GoFundMe account set up in June. (That page is still accepting donations to defray his family’s medical expenses.)
Swift’s name may not have been front and center among music listeners, but he made contributions that cut across a wide swath of independent music. He was most visibly a member of The Shins, a touring bassist for The Black Keys, and drummer for The Arcs. His own singer-songwriter recordings began as DIY affairs played and produced during studio downtime in California. Eventually signing with the Secretly Canadian label, his last solo LP The Atlantic Ocean came out in 2009 and he made a covers album with Damien Jurado in 2016. In between, he hid in plain sight using stage names like Onasis and Instruments of Science & Technology.
He also gave other musicians a comfortable location and guiding hand for their own works, setting up his National Freedom studio in Oregon in 2007. There, and elsewhere, Swift produced and played for a range of artists who enjoyed critical success (Foxygen, Pure Bathing Culture, Marco Benevento) and mainstream appeal (Guster, Nathaniel Ratlieff, The Pretenders). On Twitter, Pedro the Lion’s David Bazan—whose 2017 album Care was produced by Swift—wrote, “Richard Swift was a beautiful, powerful wizard. It really hurts that he’s gone.”