Music World Mourns the Loss of Rick Froberg, Singer of Artful Intensity, at Age 55
Music World Mourns the Loss of Rick Froberg, Singer of Artful Intensity, at Age 55

Rick Froberg, the vocalist, and guitarist most known for his work with the groundbreaking 1990s post-hardcore band Drive Like Jehu, died on June 30 in San Diego at the age of 55.

“Rick” Froberg, also known as Rick Fork and Rick Farr, was an American musician and visual artist. He was born in Los Angeles on January 19, 1968, and has lived in Encinitas, California, as well as Brooklyn.

Throughout his musical career, Froberg has been the vocalist and guitarist for a number of renowned San Diego-area bands, including Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes.

He worked closely with John Reis, another San Diego musician. Rick Froberg has played in other bands, including The Last of the Juanitas, Thingy, and Obits. Froberg distinguished himself as a brilliant graphic artist and illustrator in addition to his musical endeavors.

He was in charge of developing album artwork, promotional materials, and product designs not just for his own bands, but also for Swami Records, Rocket from the Crypt, and Reis’ record label.

Froberg died tragically on June 30, 2023, at the age of 55. His death brought to an end a magnificent career that had a lasting impact on the music and art industries.

The main cause of his death is an undiagnosed heart condition which is told by his partner, Britton Neubacher.

Mr. Froberg, a stalwart of the San Diego underground music scene in the 1980s and 1990s, sang in a raspy voice that alternated between snarl and scream.

His longtime bandmate and songwriting partner John Reis told that “He always wanted to effortlessly sound kick-ass,”

Rick Froberg particularly loved the gnarled growls of the Australian vocalists Bon Scott of AC/DC — his favorite band — and Chris Bailey of the proto-punk Saints, and he strived to follow them, Mr. Reis said.

“I would tell him, ‘Dude, you have that in spades, and you actually have another gear those people don’t have.’”

Mr. Froberg and Mr. Reis met as teenagers in a San Diego park in 1986 during a picnic organized by a local anarchist journal. They hit it off right away and quickly formed Pitchfork, with Rick Froberg on vocals.

Mr. Reis stated that the band was motivated by the noisy music released at the time on indie labels which includes Dischord, Touch & Go, and SST. However, by the time Pitchfork’s debut album was published in 1990, the band had disbanded.

After that, Mr.Froberg and Mr. Reis made another group in Drive including Jehu, however, Rick Froberg also started playing guitar, which is inspired by Sonic Youth’s atonal, unorthodox guitar tunings . In a recent web interview, Mr. Froberg said “made it seem like you could just do anything you wanted to do,”

Mr. Reis quickly grew touring with another of his bands, Rocket From the Crypt, and Drive As Jehu disbanded following the release of its second album, “Yank Crime.” Rick Froberg’s only recording for a major label was released on Interscope.

Mr. Froberg was also a talented painter. From leaflets, posters, and album covers, he progressed to silk-screened graphics, linocut etchings, and gouache paintings.

He had three solo exhibitions one recent of which was in 2022 at Trash Lamb Gallery in San Diego, and his work was included in over a dozen group shows.

In 1998, he relocated to Brooklyn to pursue a career as a freelance painter and graphic designer; he also worked as an animator with the artist Gary Panter.

His illustrations appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times, with Matt Dorfman, a Times art director who collaborated with Rick Froberg, describing his style as “a hysterical pastiche of 1920s surrealism and Tex Avery cartoons.”

Eric Gerald Froberg was born on Jan. 19, 1968, in Santa Monica, Calif., to Eric and Sylvia (Phillips) Froberg.

Mr. Froberg’s father, a business strategist as well as entrepreneur, legally changed the Swedish family name from Froberg to Farr in 1979. Mr.Rick Froberg used the familial surname professionally, while he signed his artwork “Rick Farr” or “Rick Fork” at times.

His parents split shortly after his birth, and he never met his birth mother, who died in 1992. However, in 1973, his father married Lynne Wacker who was a sales training manager for Hooked on Phonics.

Rick Froberg’s family lived in Glendale and Playa del Rey before relocating to Carlsbad when he was eight years old. He largely resided in San Diego’s North County until relocating to Brooklyn.

Rick Froberg had recently completed production on Hot Snakes’ fifth studio album. “He was really firing on all cylinders,” Mr. Reis said.

“His voice gave me a lot of freedom as a songwriter because I didn’t have to worry about where the chorus or the melody was. I could go wildly off into what I considered uncharted territory for myself and always knew that he would make sense of it and turn it into something beautiful.

“I’m just lost without him,” he added. “I don’t know what to do now.”

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