Before my very first Homecoming Dance in 1999, two seniors at my school were killed in a car accident. I didn’t know these kids at all, which made the grieving process a strange one. I remember how the din of the school’s hallways was hushed the next day, I remember seeing friends huddled in in clumps outside the school crying or praying or both, and I remember being driven out to the country, out to the spot of the accident where a makeshift memorial had taken shape. Around the fateful tree lay bouquets of flowers, stuffed animals, some hand-written notes, and well over 50 messages drawn on the road in colored chalk that stretched on for hundreds of feet.
I held the piece of chalk in my hand and walked along the pavement reading all these messages from people who knew the two kids: Messages that thanked, that loved, that wished for the best, that recalled a moment they shared, that said what life would be like without you. I didn’t know what life was like with them. All these messages from people who knew these two kids, and I felt like I had nothing to say, nothing to be thankful for. I finally wrote, “I wish I could have known you. From everything I’ve read, you sound like a wonderful person.”
This was how I felt Friday when Adam Yauch, 47, died. There are many others who knew MCA more than I did, both literally and through his music. I picked up Hello Nasty in 1998 and it sat largely unplayed in my CD binder. License to Ill and Ill Communication came later in high school — I just played the singles. It wasn’t until my cousin sent me Paul’s Boutique late into college that something clicked for me. I came running back to my CDs, late pass in hand, and haven’t looked back since.
Over the weekend I read plenty about Yauch from extensive and emotional histories, to a heartfelt piece from a guy who knew him, to even reading tweets from musicians. Like a lot of people did, I played through every Beastie Boys album like twice, k-holed through Beastie Boys music videos on live performances on YouTube, thumbed through my 33 1/3 book on Paul’s Boutique, and got real bummed out when I couldn’t find my t-shirt that came with my Hot Sauce Committee Pt 2. deluxe vinyl order. This wasn’t me grieving. This was me walking along the road holding that piece of chalk.
But there’s something that separates the two kids and MCA. In reading about and listening to Yauch nonstop for the past three days (and to a more real extent since I first picked up Hello Nasty), I found that if you know Beasties Boys’ music, then you know Adam Yauch. All the facets of his life from skeezin’ in the back of a party with some ladies to a mea culpa for his immature youth, to his auteurism in film, to his spiritual beliefs — Yauch’s art truly reflected his life. His heart and soul lives in the grooves of every record and the reels of every film.
If you feel like you don’t know him, start now. Start by listening to him count it down in “The New Style” and fill in every gap between that and his comic masterpiece Fight For Your Right Revisited.
What follows is our note on the pavement.
-Jeremy D. Larson