Richard Francis ~ 1948 – 2009

As I started writing this, Richard Francis, host of A Different Nature, was in a medically-induced coma after suffering a heart attack on the eve of his last show.
He didn’t show up before the broadcast, which alarmed those that knew him well; Richard was a meticulous planner and was always early for his shows, often polishing up the details up to the last minute.
When he failed to show up – most of the show being pre-prepared by other participants, no one had to be told that the show must go on while a friend traced his route back to his apartment and finally calling area emergency rooms.
Her worst fears were realized when she learned that he was indeed in Emmanuel Hospital’s ICU, having collapsed in a market.
As of this writing, he’s unresponsive to any stimuli and shows no brain activity.
The plan was to slowly take him out of the coma to assess the damage while his family descended on Portland from the Midwest.

Richard is KBOO’s Dean of Avant-garde and Surrealism. He’s hosted his program of adventurous music since the  early Eighties and each program is carefully planned like a class curriculum. I’ve been fortunate to have listened to it since I’ve been in High School, which is to say well over 20 years.
I feel like I’ve gotten quite an education from Professor Francis. He turned lucky and brave listeners onto Musique Concrète, historical Dada recordings and writings, early electronic music, environmental recordings and so much more.
I remember what an epiphany it was hearing Lucier’s I Am Sitting In A Room on Richard’s show all those years ago and him explaining what it was about and why it was important. It changed my view of art and music forever.
He also curated the 2001 Dada Fest marathon and was Field Marshall for its five-day revival in 2008.  Richard fearlessly led us into much mayhem on that hot summer and I was fortunate to have participated in a few of those events. The atmosphere of surreal creativity was most contagious.
He’s also largely responsible for the considerable collection of Avant-Gard music – both historic and modern – in KBOO’s labyrinthian library. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of strange and experimental music, which he loved sharing with people. When he flies away, it’ll be as if a giant museum burned to the ground.
I can’t imagine KBOO without him.

And so it goes…
I just received the news from Daniel Flessas that his family and the doctors thought it was in the best interests of Richard’s wishes – given his situation – that he be taken off of life support:

“At about 4 pm today, the family has decided to take Richard off the respirator, and it will be just a matter of time then how long his body will stay alive. The neurologist and others have decided that that the higher function areas of his brain, which made Richard “Richard”, his ability to think, to know, to communicate, what made up his very identity, seems to be not coming back. There is a question of how much time his brain was without oxygen, unconscious at the convenience store, before the response team arrived. But he has not been responsive since then (Monday late afternoon).(…)
But Richard is having some new experience without us, has moved into it now, and has left this one, whether we’re ready or not.”

I’m not and am not sure when I will be. I can only say thank you, Richard, for one hell of an education and for showing me how to bravely plow forward for art.

06/26/12~ I’ve disabled comments to this post, due to excessive spam.


  1. He left us far too soon- he had so much more to share! The DADA e-mails were coming fast and furiously to my inbox.

    But if there was anyone who was well-prepared for death while celebrating life, it was Richard.

    I will really miss him.

  2. Soooooooo sad, I had just started working with him for the DADA fest. We had recently recorded something together last month for the show. HUGE loss. I was really hoping to learn from him. My heart goes out to everyone who knew him 😦
    My condolences to all!!!

  3. Thank you for your article regarding my brother. Having known him all my life, I can only say the praise may be understated. As difficult as it was to let go, the family sought foremost to honor his wishes. We recognize also the Richard had a second family of friends that, in some ways, was closer than we were.
    He will be honored most by having his work continued, although I can’t imagine any one person being able to replace him.
    Remember him best by treating those you meet with love and respect.

  4. So sad to hear of Richard’s passing.
    So sad.
    All is quiet now.
    Someone quite remarkable has passed.
    Sad. Quiet…and in the stillness, some memories…

    I remember him as a dear friend when I was program director of KBOO years ago. I remember saying yes to his program proposal to do “A Different Nature”. I remember the amazing program that flowed from him and I remember a dear friendship that flowed from that, all his activities on the program committee.

    My most joyful memory was when he and I were on the air live reading a John Cage score for horse and piano. The very meticulous directions for the musical score included something about the horse eating hay next to a piano and the piece was over when the horse was finished eating the hay. I started laughing and couldn’t stop.

    I remember Richard telling me about helping a friend through her death, helping her find her bardo body on the other side. I know him as a deeply spiritual person, through is music, through his actions in his life. I know that he will find the way in the next world. He will be deeply missed.

    Thank you so much for all you have done in your amazing lifetime.
    Blessings Richard on your next journey,

    Sheila Rubin

  5. I am a former co-worker, and friend, from many years back. Rick (which we knew him as at the time)was a very unique and special individual. It was obvious he had much to share with the world.

    Here are some quotes I find are appropriate:

    “A heart of gold stopped beating, two shining eyes at rest. God broke our hearts to prove He only takes the best.” — Author Unknown

    Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there … I do not sleep. I am the thousand winds that blow … I am the diamond glints on snow … I am the sunlight on ripened grain … I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken int he morning’s hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of gentle birds in circling flight … I am the soft star that shines at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry — I am not there … I did not die …”
    — Irish Blessing

    “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breaths away.”
    — Renee Lamb’s page LO

    “Mourn not the cocoon, the butterfly has flown.”
    — Author Unknown

    “You can shed tears that he is gone, or you can smile because he has lived. You can close your eyes and pray that he’ll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all he’s left. Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him, or you can be full of the love you shared. You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. You can remember him only that he is gone, or you can cherish his memory and let it live on. You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back. Or you can do what he’d want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.” — David Harkins

    My condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones … no longer earth bound, may he rest in peace … blessings!

  6. I met Richard in the 70’s, we both worked for the Omaha World Herald. He was introduced by our friend DJ (Debi Jo. It was a short time that we spent as friends and many a late night, drinking wine and listening to music and just talking. I will miss him very much, my condolences to his famliy and friends, we have all lost a great soul.

  7. I vividly recall meeting Richard when he arrived at KBOO, I believe in 1980. As the station’s volunteer coordinator, I met with a dozen or more prospective volunteers a month, each angling to get on the air and boasting they had the talent and creativity to put on a different type of music show, the likes of which were nowhere to be found in Portland. Richard confidently assured me he had something new to offer and he sure was right.
    Richard’s dedication to his craft, and to the KBOO audience, was remarkable and inspirational. He didn’t need the ego gratification. He just loved sharing his sound so others could appreciate it. The airwaves around Portland will never be the same. I will miss him.

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