Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Parting Glance: Adam Yauch

I find it so strange that Adam Yauch passed away on that abortive 'holiday' laughingly referred to as Star Wars Day. All day I've been seeing the internet all a'twitter with 'fourth' gags and puns, people celebrating this selfish, greedy man who apparently only had one thing to give to the world and has proceeded to tinker with it over and over again while fostering this fetishization of it by his fanbase, a man whose does not deserve lionization for pumping a load of derivitive dross that killed any hope of an intelligent mainstream American cinema.

...and in the middle of this mastubatory celebration, a man passed away who, along with his two friends, saw the potential greatness in a musical genre that was developing in New York and embraced it. This man was a founder of one of the acts (along with Run DMC, Public Enemy, Afrika Bambaataa and others) that reached out to the mainstream and helped popularize that genre, in his case by producing work that was equally popular in urban contemporary and rock formats. The first album he participated on was the first hip hop album to hit the Billboard pop charts.  He collaborated on a number of songs that have become legitimate hip hop standards, beginning with his band's very first single. He helped produce vital, exciting music up until the day of his death while also promoting his philosophical beliefs and philanthropic interests. He should be the man people honored this past May 4th, not George Lucas sitting in his ranch in California.

It's not like we didn't know MCA might pass on--even though we thought he had conquered it, his struggles with cancer was well documented. It's just that it happened so suddenly, so quickly, and so soon after The Beasties had been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame that his death came as a shock. And given that it happened after two other people so intrinsic to the history of popular music, Dick Clark and Levon seemed like, as the Popdose eulogy posted this Saturday said, that the three represent some passing of rock as a whole, with each man providing a side of that triangle.

I can't see the other two Beasties continuing on after Yauch's death--the magic this act produced was dependant on all three contributing to their music. What I can see that worries me is that with time they'll become nothing but their first album, with oldies stations playing 'You Gotta Fight For You're Right To Party' and 'No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn' ad infinitum while ignoring all the great music that came after License To Ill. That's effectively what happened to such great acts as The Kinks and Warren Zevon and the like such before them, and I pray that their impact was great enough that people who consider themselves true music fans won't let that happen.

I have said multiple times that I prefer my artists to evolve. A number of times I have said that when writing about artists I love who evolved into things I didn't care for. The Beasties never stopped evolving; each album was different from the one before it, and part of that was because as a human being Adam Yauch was always evolving, taking in new music genres to better inform his sensibilities.

Last night, I went to The Avenue, a local bar owned by a dear friend of mine.  It was the bar's second anniversary, and its traditional karaoke night.  While I was there to celebrate this milestone in my friend's career as a business owner, I made sure to get up on stage and sing two of Adam Yauch's songs, giving it my all for a man who I respected, and whose work I loved.  I hope his friends, his family, and his bandmates know how much he changed the face of this world, and how much he will be missed.

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