Richard Swift was arguably the most prolific and best-known musician in Oregon. He toured the world with acts like The Black Keys and The Shins, while collaborating with and producing some of indie rock’s biggest names at National Freedom Studios, a recording facility Swift owned and operated in Cottage Grove. The full list of notable artists Swift touched includes Damien Jurado, Foxygen, Mynabirds and many more.
Swift died July 3 at the age of 41. The causes of death were hepatitis, as well as liver and kidney distress, according to a social media post from his family, record label and artist management.
Swift was also a successful solo artist and songwriter. Whether in his solo work, in collaboration or as a producer, Swift always looked forward. He had a crisp and clean, yet emotionally present style, which occasionally recalled classic Motown. On one of his solo tracks, “Songs of National Freedom,” Swift mentions his desire to lead a low-key life in Oregon. “I made my way into the spotlight,” he sings, “just to realize it’s not what I want.”
It seems like a little miracle that Swift managed to bring such quality artists to the small south Lane County city. Last year, when I spoke to Shins singer, primary songwriter and Portland resident James Mercer in advance of his show in Eugene, he mentioned frequently traveling to see Swift.