3 years ago next month, I went to the Bonnaroo Music Festival where the Beastie Boys were one of the marquee performers on Friday night. After assuring a prime viewing spot close to the pit, the Beasties emerged from backstage and I danced and rapped along, pumping my fists to the songs and high fiving total strangers as we laughed and smiled. Less than a couple of months later, founding member Adam Yauch a.k.a. MCA announced that he had been diagnosed with a cancerous growth in his salivary gland. A harsh reminder that one day everything is fine, and the next day the world can be turned upside down – it’s just a matter of when.
As a clueless 16 year old, I remember buying every Beastie Boys release I could possibly track down and endlessly studying their music videos so I could copy their mannerisms and try to be as half as cool as they were. I probably never would have even known (nor cared) about the plight to Free Tibet from the ruthless occupation of China. I probably never would have started recording rap songs using self referential aliases like “Bradrock” or “Brad D”. (Luckily only my closest of long-time friends have those recordings). I definitely never would have known who Sadaharu Oh is either. I could go on and on, but with this lump in my throat – all I know for sure is that I’m leaving work in an hour and a half, and I’m going to crank Paul’s Boutique all the way home and cry it out, after I call my mom and tell her that I love her. She has survived cancer three times, and my family is incredibly blessed – something I really tend to forget.
While this day is incredibly sad and hard for me, the Beastie Boys have basically soundtracked my life since I got my driver’s license and brought me an incredible amount of joy and enlightenment. I will never be able to listen to them again without a pang of sadness, but MCA made this world a better place through his music and good deeds. I never met MCA and would probably have embarrassed myself if I did – but this one really hurts my heart. My heart goes out to Yauch’s family and the rest of the Beastie Boys crew – I can’t imagine the loss they are feeling today. “and when you’ve got so much to say, it’s called Gratitude” – I’ll leave it at that. Rest in peace Adam Yauch.