Rest in Peace Adam Yauch

May 5th, 2012

Saddened by the news of the death of Adam Yauch (MCA). Coming on the heels of Junior Seau’s death, it makes for a particularly rough week for my junior high and high school icons.

I was in 8th grade when Licensed to Ill came out and, like most suburban white kids in the late 80′s, it featured prominently in the soundtrack of my life for a few years.

I was a latecomer to Paul’s Boutique, but the release of Check Your Head in 1992 blew me away. It still ranks as one of my top 5 albums of all time and, along with Tribe Called Quest and Lenny Kravitz, Check Your Head and Ill Communication were in heavy rotation in my college CD player.

The progression that occured from Licensed to Ill  to Check Your Head was dramatic. The Led Zeppelin samples of Licensed to Ill were replaced by more soulful rythms which often featured the Beasties playing their own instruments. On my junior high school trip to Washington DC, the older kids delighted in playing “Girls” (Should clean up my room, should do the dishes…) to annoy the two teachers who wore their feminism on their sleeves, but by Check Your Head’s “Sure Shot,” MCA was offering:

to say a little something that’s long overdue, this disrespecting women has got to be through. / To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends, I wanna offer my love and respect til the end.           

During late nights, I’ve often explained my theory (sometimes to laughs) that the Beastie Boys evolving style was like the Beatles progression from “Love Me Do” to “Sgt Peppers.” Of course, there hasn’t been a Beatles since the Beatles, but the Beastie’s evolution is similar. The rhymes on Licensed to Ill are juvenile and often crude, but it’s hard to argue that the music isn’t funky. Similarly, “Love Me Do” is amazing, but ”A Day in the Life” is in another dimension.

As long as we’re comparing the Beastie Boys to the Beatles, Adam Yauch plays the George Harrison in the analogy. I’ve spent many late nights listening to the stream of conciousness “Namaste” on Check Your Head and “Bodhisattva Vow” on Ill Communication completed the transition. Now the Boys that brought us Brass Monkey (That Funky Monkey) were rapping about Buddisim.

Twelve Years after Licensed to Ill, the Beasties still made an impact, and I remember hearing Hello Nasty blaring from someone’s car speakers on Haight Street on the first weekend it was released.  By now, Yauch had a full head of grey hair and I war rapidly losing mine, but the release of a Beastie Boys album was still an event.

In 1986, I thought that 47 years old was old. Now I see it for what it is: too young to be dying of cancer.

Thanks for the memories MCA.


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