What does it mean to mourn the death of someone you don’t know? Someone you have never met, or could call a friend? But I guess that’s the weird nature of celebrity, and in this case, one of my musical heroes who passed away yesterday. So when I feel utterly gutted and numb over the death of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, I’m mourning not only for a creative artist who I really admired, or for the daughter and wife that he left behind, but also because the Beastie Boys were a huge part of my life and part of that is gone.
There are really only a few bands that have stayed with me over the years starting way back from when I was a kid till now. There are bands or artists that I may have loved intensely for awhile that is representative of a certain era, but with the exception of maybe the Cure, the Beastie Boys have been the band that has continuously sustained the longest, going all the way back to 9th grade. I can look at each record and immediately place myself in time: cheesy high school dance parties bopping around to Licensed to Ill; art school college angst in the painting studio listening to Paul’s Boutique on headphones; some of the earliest memories of hanging out with Mark when I moved to WA during Check Your Head; watching the “Sabotage” video on repeat with my housemates in Portland during Ill Communication; driving across the country on our move back to NY to the soundtrack of The In Sound From Way Out! ; getting high on soldering fumes playing with breadboards and circuits in grad school at NYU to Hello Nasty blasting in the classroom; watching the premiere of “Alive” while nursing Mia on the couch during To the 5 Boroughs. I don’t know…now that I think about it, I’m not sure there is any other band that I can thread all these experiences together with. Just as I thought when I was watching Pearl Jam 20 a few months ago, watching “Make Some Noise” last year with millions of other people also buzzing about it made me think incredulously, has it really been 25 years? Are we all getting that old? And wow, they’re still together making music?
But that’s what happens when you literally grow up with a band. The Beastie Boys showed us that some local kids from Brooklyn and Manhattan could be musical pioneers, transcend boundaries and genres, make it big, recognize the gravity of some of the lyrics from their earlier work, and use their public image towards social and political causes. I respected MCA for his passion and commitment to mobilizing awareness towards the Tibetan Freedom Movement and admired him for diversifying his career as a talented film director. And if nothing else, we’re all long-time Knicks fans. That just made me like the Beastie Boys even more.
I’m sitting here with Claudine watching the Beasties Video Anthology DVDs as I type this and I can see that her world just got a little bit bigger. I saw it in her face when I sort of absentmindedly put on Hello Nasty earlier today and then noticed that she was really listening to the music and smiling every time she recognized some of the pop culture references in some of the lyrics. After every song, she wanted to hear more. While I’m devastated that he died so young at the hands of cancer – after all, Adam wasn’t really that much older than me – and that stirs all sorts of emotions about immortality as some of our childhood heroes fall, his legacy will live on as we pass the music on to the next generation.
Good night MCA.