beastie boy adam yauch died 2 days before my 39th birthday. i was on the way from durham, north carolina, to the outer banks when i heard the news from my friend bucko, who had started getting into the beastie boys recently. he’s older than i am, so they were never really on his radar. they pretty much were my radar, so he decided to figure out why i was always talking about those guys. he wasn’t disappointed. other than that with adam yauch’s death, he joins the group of folks who are sad that there won’t be more from him.
bucko’s facebook post, breaking the news to me: “i just saw the news about adam of the beasties. i know you must be very sad about this. not sure what to say. i was just getting to know their music & learning to really enjoy it. what a loss.”
i’ve written about the beastie boys here a few times before. i wrote about my realization a year ago that i wouldn’t hear their new album in stereo, and then it was the first thing i listened to after i got my hearing aid. i also referred to them as pros when it comes to making your own fun. exhibit A:
yesterday a friend posted a link to an article about MCA’s death. it’s titled “MCA, kid forever: how the beastie boys united us by never growing up” and i think that it does a good job of looking at what the beastie boys mean to a lot of folks of my generation. the link in the article is to the video of my favorite beastie boys song – it’s always in position 2 on my personal soundtrack.
but i disagree with the premise of the article, that the beastie boys never grew up. i think that they actually modeled how to grow up, and that that’s a key to the reason that they stayed relevant. the beastie boys from my teen years wouldn’t have held my attention in my 30’s.
teen years beasties:
not surprisingly, teen years beasties were mainly concerned with partying. post-911 beasties said things like, “i’m getting kind of tired of the situation, the US attacking other nations.” i don’t think that they were being preachy – i think that they were talking about things that mattered to them as adults. there aren’t many references to the iran-contra affair in “licensed to ill” – makes sense because they were in their early twenties when that album came out.
another sign of maturity: when they got a little older and wiser they started changing one piece of the lyrics to “paul revere” (a song from their first album) that they decided was too offensive. there’s a lot of irresponsible teen-partying-type stuff on that album, but they were able to discern what needed a revision. they left the irresponsible stuff alone – they didn’t scrub that album clean. they changed a bit they they couldn’t in good conscience keep saying in light of the knowledge they’d gained as they got older.
ok, how’s this for maturity – i remember watching the MTV video music awards live back in 1998 when the beastie boys were presented with a video vanguard award. when it was MCA’s turn to speak, he used his time to talk about racism towards middle-easterners and the dangers of retaliation in the war on terrorism. it’s certainly worth a watch all the way through.
the atlantic article about MCA’s death said that the beastie boys made it cool to be white. i think that the beastie boys made it cool to grow up. they showed that growing up doesn’t mean that you have to give up having fun. growing up means that the ways you have fun are different – i think specifically that the fun grown-ups have shouldn’t be at the expense of other folks. i’ve always gotten the feeling that the beastie boys put a really high priority on doing things that amused themselves. a few examples:
and of course, possibly the coolest video over made:
it has always given me a smug sense of satisfaction that two of my favorite folks – elvis costello and david letterman – are big fans of the beastie boys. it seems like the boys always went the extra mile when they were on the late show. here’s an example:
and an amazing thing that happened on the SNL 25th anniversary show:
adam yauch was 47 when he passed away. part of his legacy was the example he gave of how to have fun and still be responsible in your forties. i’ll be there in less than a year, and i hope i can do as good of a job of it as he did. i’m sad that he won’t be leading the way into the fifties, but i’m looking forward to seeing how adam horovitz and mike diamond do it, if we’re all fortunate enough to get there.
i should also mention that nathaniel hörnblowér passed away this week.
here’s a rare interview with mike, adam, and mr. hörnblowér: