your heart might’ve let the beat drop, but your music will live on

May 6, 2012 |  Category:   life nyc remembering

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.



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  • Maren May 6, 2012 at 1:52 am

    I loved the Beastie Boys too. I was fanatical. They were my very first concert, and I was lucky enough to attend many after that, including the Tibetan Freedom Concert in SF. My friend and I worked our way to the front row, both days. And we were petite high schoolers at the time. I am so grateful for that memory.

    Adam was my all-time favorite. I loved that he seemed older than Mike and Adam H. and later, I loved how conscious he became of the issues in the world around him.
    I used to write letters to him, mostly Bonnie Raitt lyrics (I was a teenager!), and he would send me stickers and photo’s, which were obviously from his record label and not him. But one time he actually sent me a postcard with a drawing of a man fishing and signed it and mailed it from Brooklyn. I still have it, along with years of memorabilia.
    Anyhow, I haven’t been able to bring myself to talk about his death to anyone. I think I’m in denial. He was so special to me and my heart is broken for his wife and child. I need a few weeks to get past the shock of all of it, but I look forward to digging my box out of the basement and re-living my love for the Beastie Boys, but most especially Adam.
    RIP Adam Yauch.

    p.s. if anyone wants to read a rad story about Adam that I read on facebook today, here you go:

  • Mette Camilla May 6, 2012 at 4:02 am

    I know exactly how you feel. I got so sad when I heard the news. I still got the ticket from their 1999 concert in Copenhagen – one of my favourite concerts ever.

  • Anna @ D16 May 6, 2012 at 10:14 am

    I hate that we keep bonding over this kind of loss, Jenna. This is a rough one.

    One thing I didn’t get into in my post but I wish that I had is that we all got to watch the Beasties grow up. The arc of their experiences and their outlook on life from their first album to their last is just so huge and broad. We grew up WITH them, we matured with them…and really, none of them more than Yauch. I remember hearing an interview with him on NPR a few years ago and just feeling so lucky and proud and happy to have had this awesome group of guys in my life for so long. He turned out so well. They all did. OK, now I’m getting rambly…

    Thank you for getting it, and for talking about it. I want my personal life soundtrack back, Jenna.

  • Buffet May 6, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Just found out about Adam’s news. πŸ™ Will miss Yauch’s contribution in their unique, funny and energetic music videos. RIP, he was a great soul.

  • Jenna May 6, 2012 at 10:56 am

    @Maren, thanks for sharing your memories of MCA. So cool that you have that postcard.

  • Jenna May 6, 2012 at 11:02 am

    @Anna Totally agree with you about watching the Beasties grow up, and that’s what I meant about growing up with a band – to see their evolution, to see them mature, to see them become parents. I dunno…with MJ, he was sort of untouchable because of his talent, his fame, but with the Beasties…they were relatable on some level, like your average NYC guys.

  • Allison May 6, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Jenna – you know you’re old when a band member dies, and you think to yourself, “who were they?” BB came to the fore after I gave up on current music and resigned myself to listening to the music of my youth. Actually I just switched to NPR. And so it goes.

  • rachel May 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    it’s such a strange feeling, isn’t it? it makes no sense and every bit of sense all at once.

    one of my memories: when I was young and my dad ripped me a copy of Hello Nasty from the library – at my request – he only wrote “Hello” on the label. but I knew better, of course.

  • Paige Davidson May 6, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    They have been the consistent soundtrack of my life with Slow & Low on repeat on my tape player as I sat on my elementary school beanbag. It was the same License to Ill tape in my first car the day I got my license. I heard Hello Nasty for the first time playing from a bar downstairs as I did laundry on an upstairs porch in Castiglione Fiorentino in the summer of 98 and was comforted by the familiar voices during a summer spent abroad with strangers. I had the pleasure of seeing them thrice and had dance parties in my old Ill Communication ringer shirt yesterday at my store. I’ve spent the last three days teetering between dancing and crying. I’ve mourned this loss more than any others in my real life. I haven’t been able to process it, but I know that I’m devastated…for his family…for Adam & Mike…for myself and the rest of the fans.

  • Juju May 6, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    both my husband and i have been so bummed out since we heard the news. as you noted, perhaps it’s his age and the fact that we are not that far from it, but this news really struck us hard. i think it’s also the fact that cancer is just overwhelmingly every where. i’m glad i got to see him and the boys perform live. he will be sorely missed….

  • Kate N. May 7, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I got Hello Nasty when I was in 6th grade and it was the first CD I ever owned. The next year when I went to junior high from my tiny country elementary school, it wasn’t so scary because I knew there were three MCs and one DJ who had my back. I completely associate that first surge of adolescence and growing up with the Beastie Boys, and I’m completely devastated that Adam is gone. I’m not necessarily comparing it with my mom building a shrine to Lennon with her friends when he died, but he’s definitely the first artist from my era whose passing has touched me so much.

  • Sophia May 7, 2012 at 11:54 am

    As english is not my native language I missed all the connection that I could have had with their lyrics when I was younger but still I remember when I first watched “Sabotage” there was something in their respective sound and video for it that made me want to listen to that particular song again and again.It was a song that imprinted in my memory and even after all those years has the same impact on me…

  • Jen May 8, 2012 at 12:50 am

    Certain music and artists – The Beastie Boys, The Cure for me as well – has special meaning because they’re like a snapshot of a time in your life. They’d be in my personal time capsule. Adam Yauch’s death is not only sad because of his importance to music but his work with human rights. And seriously, F cancer. This comes just one week after personal news of a death from cancer and a family member’s hard fifth year still fighting cancer. Always reminders about treating each other and ourselves better. And East Village Radio posted some great footage of the Beastie Boys (one from a 1984 Scott & Gary Show performance, one backing up Costello, and an almost 2-hour live footages special from Japan):

  • Audrie May 8, 2012 at 1:35 am

    When I heard, I found myself crying. It still doesn’t seem real to me, days later. I tear up whenever I see clips of MCA or hear his voice when I play their music now. Like you said, we don’t know them and yet the loss is heartbreaking.

  • Annie May 8, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Such sad news – have you seen this tribute by Chris Martin – really lovely.

    Annie x

  • Mary May 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Such a great post. I know some people felt this type of loss with Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston, and believe me I owned Thriller, but I didn’t connect with them like this. I loved the Beastie Boys, and like you said, their longevity and greatness meant that they carried me through so many different phases of my life. I won’t feel sad listening to them, though. Their music is celebratory, fun, and infectious. May it always be so.

  • Jenna May 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    @Mary I was really devastated by MJ’s death. I wrote about it a few times when it happened. This sort of feels like that, but I like what you said about not being sad when listening to them. You’re right – their music is celebratory and fun!

  • Lila May 9, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    I was totally bummed to hear of MCA’s passing. It was so shocking even though I knew he was sick. My 8 year old became a huge fan of them last year. And Adam Yauch was his favorite. I’m such a mom now! I was constantly telling him to turn it off, turn it down, monitoring which youtube videos he would watch of them, I would answer mmmhmmm anytime he would talk about them. And I was a really big fan of them growing up.
    Oddly, the day before he passed, my son wanted to write them a letter and I encouraged him to do so but not to expect an answer back but you never know, I told him :)I’m really becoming MY mom here and crushing his hopes before he even he gets started.
    Anyway, it was really sad to tell him that his idol had passed on. He kept asking if they were positive that he was really, really gone…like maybe it was a big mistake πŸ™‚
    If anything, it made him a huger fan than he already is! And now I engage him when he talks about them. And I let him turn it up a little louder.

  • Lila May 9, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    ****The last smiley was supposed to be a SAD smiley****