A Nashville Christian journalist and former editor of CCM magazine has died at the age of 52.
Jay Swartzendruber was a music publicist in Nashville in the 1990s and early 2000s and advocated through his journaliism work for Christian artists to become involved with the AIDS crisis.
His friends in the music business reported his death, Christian Headlines reports.
As a publicist, Swartzendruber spent five years as the head of CCM, a print magazine at the time, and moved its focus from music sold in Christian bookstores to a broader Christian music perspective, called "Christian worldview music" by the magazine.
Prior to his journalistic work, Swartzendruber was a publicist for labels like Gotee Records and Re:Think, working with musicians that included Switchfoot and Sixpence None the Richer.
Steve Taylor, a Christian singer-songwriter and music producers, remembers Swartzendruber for his passion for Christian music.
Taylor says he hired Swartzendruber when he first started the record label Squint Entertainment.
"Whether it was for a band, a ministry, or a cause he believed in, Jay was the advocate you wanted: relentless, principle, and unfailingly honest," Taylor says of Swartzendruber.
Taylor and Swartzendruber remained friends until Swartzendruber's death. Taylor says Swartzendruber's love for people and music was palpable.
Charlie Peacock is another lifelong friend of Swartzendruber. The two met in the early 1990s while Swartzendruber was in graduate school.
Peacock says Swartzendruber called him asking for a summer internship at his production company. After his graduation, Peacock hired Swartzendruber on and the soon-to-be publicist moved to Nashville.
Swartzendruber approached Peacock with concern about the AIDS crisis as it unfolded in the United States in the early 2000s. Peacock says Swartzendruber had the idea to invite Bono, lead singer of U2, to come to Nashville and meet with Christian artists to help them become involve in work to combat AIDS.
At the time, Bono was coming to the US to meet with evangelical leaders and then-US president George W. Bush to address the cause.
Peacock says the two wrote a letter and sent it off, not "holding our breath," Peacock says.
But Swartzendruber's creativity and passion paid off, and Peacock hosted a meeting at his house with Bono and Christian artists present.
"To me this was a shining moment," says Peacock, who later became more involved in the fight against AIDS. "What we did as church in the early 2000s, that was our brightest moment in my lifetime."
Swartzendruber spoke with Religion News Service while editor of CCM in 2007. He wanted to expand the magazine's musical horizons.
"I think we face a danger by sticking to the Christian market because if you’re not careful, you can project the message that the Christian life is safe; Jesus did not call us to a life of safety. He called us to taking risks," he says.
"If anything, I feel like by us expanding this, we’re doing more of what we’re supposed to."
After CCM's magazine went out of print, Swartzendruber eventually went to work for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
His friends remember him as a gentle giant who always put others before himself.
"I have never seen somebody love so many people so well and be so genuinely interested in others,” he said," says friend Nick Barre, an artist manager in the Christian music industry.
Swartzendruber died of a heart attack and is survived by his wife.