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Ex-Beachwood Sparks Guitarist Josh Schwartz Dies at 45

Photo credit: Yasamine June
Photo credit: Yasamine June

Josh Schwartz, the guitarist whose ’90s tenure with Further preceded a brief involvement with Beachwood Sparks and a varied career as a solo artist and session player, has passed away due to the effects of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Joining his former Further bandmates Brent Rademaker and Christopher Gunst in Beachwood Sparks after the earlier band’s late-’90s dissolution, Schwartz contributed to the sessions for the album Desert Skies, but departed in 1999. The record stayed in the vaults until 2013.

“Well, it didn’t come out because the lineup that recorded it kind of fell apart, Rademaker told us at the time. “We were going to go on a West Coast tour, and then we lost a couple of members. Then we went on tour and met the folks from Sub Pop, because we were in Seattle. Plus, we were going to release it on the label that I had been running for most of the ’90s, and then the band got really busy, so it was hard to do the label and be in the band at the same time. I think the real reason was that we lost the members, and we shelved the tapes, because Sub Pop signed us and we wanted to record something that represented the four-piece lineup.”

Rademaker added that Schwartz’s contributions couldn’t be replicated by future members. “Josh was a rock ‘n’ roll lead guitar player and the songs that he wrote, that kind of spirit never got represented on the Beachwood Sparks albums of the 2000s. His songs are about girls and driving in a car. He loved Ray Davies and Neil Young.”

Schwartz’s later credits included work for an eclectic array of artists that ranged from Flight of the Conchords and Lou Barlow to John Cale and Charlatans UK, as well as a 2010 solo release, for which he assumed the “band name” Painted Hills.

Schwartz was diagnosed with ALS the same year he released the Painted Hills record, and remained a beloved fixture on the Los Angeles Americana music scene even as his condition deteriorated. A 2014 benefit show helped raise funds for his care, and although the disease eventually took away his ability to move anything but his eyes, friends described a consistently positive attitude and a life surrounded by loved ones.

“I think the best insight into Josh is the fact that just weeks before going into the hospital for the last time, he was still supporting his friends and favorite artists, he bought an Eric Gaffney limited edition signed solo album from Eric’s Bandcamp page knowing that Eric needed the support,” Rademaker told Pitchfork. “He was one of those rare people that really brought out the best in others. It was hard to be a jerk when Josh was around. He really was magic.”

Ric Menck, who released Schwartz’s Painted Hills record through his Bird Song Recordings, was quoted as saying Schwartz “flowed like a river” and describing the release as “one of the greatest albums of his generation” — all a reflection of the spirit that seemed to inspire a circle of friends and collaborators until his final days.

“I loved him. Everyone loved him,” said Menck. “He was a f—ing rock & roll star.”

Rocker Deaths: Artists We Lost in 2017

Next: Our 2013 Interview With Brent Rademaker

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