Richard Swift, songwriter, producer, visual artist, and genuine American weirdo, has passed. A prolific producer and sideman — known for his work with Damien Jurado, the Shins, the Black Keys/Dan Auerbach, Lî¦titia Sadier, Foxygen, David Bazan, the Pretenders, Starflyer 59, Kevin Morby, and countless more — Swift was also responsible for a series of difficult to classify solo recordings. Distilling wide-reaching influences, from Prince to Beefheart, Kraftwerk to Randy Newman, Swift’s discography serves as a testament to his wide taste and restlessly creative nature.
Following an ill-fated turn in the world of CCM, Swift leaned into his idiosyncrasies. His solo debut, The Novelist, sounded like a seance in a ’20s speakeasy; Walking Without Effort in turn channeled AM Gold. In 2007, he released the Dressed Up for the Letdown, a collection of sly and knowing piano songs, which he followed in 2009 with the mutant pop record The Atlantic Ocean. Interesting detours abounded, from the electronic project Instrument of Science and Technology to the noisy Richard Swift as Onasis and Walt Woflman outings, and Other People’s Songs, a collection of covers with frequent collaborator and friend Damien Jurado, which originally appeared here on Aquarium Drunkard. In 2014, he contributed the sprawling Playing Dumb to AD, 54-minute mix sourced from his personal 45 collection, laid down at his National Freedom Studios in Cottage Grove, Oregon.
In 2010, Swift’s friend and collaborator Elijah Thompson penned an appreciation of his work here on the site. His words capture his charm well. “Most who know Richard Swift are in love with both the man, and his musical offerings. He is definitely an artist that those who love music should be rooting for. He has deep convictions that will drive him down the twisted and rocky path of the enlightened. He isn’t very famous, but deep down, that’s probably because he doesn’t want to be. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be.”