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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Long Live the Beasties

Adam Yauch, known to Beastie Boys fans everywhere as MCA, died on Friday.

 FILE - In this July 26, 2006 file photo, Beastie Boys members Adam Yauch "MCA," center, Adam Horovitz "Adrock," left, and Mike Diamond "Mike D," reflected in a mirror, pose for a photograph during an interview in Toronto, Wednesday, July 26, 2006. Yauch, the gravelly voiced Beastie Boys rapper who co-founded the seminal hip-hop group, has died at age 47. The cause of death wasn't immediately known. Yauch, who's also known as MCA, was diagnosed with a cancerous parotid gland in 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Aaron Harris)
Ad Rock, MCA, and Mike D

If you’re over 50 or under 30, you may not know his work. He is one third of the Beastie Boys, a trio of goofy white kids from New York who became hip-hop stars with the anthem “You gotta fight, for your right, to paaaaaar-tay.” If that’s all you know, you may wonder why Gen Xers are so upset at his passing. I’ve wondered myself why I took this news so hard. Maybe if I can explain it to you, I’ll understand it myself.

The Beastie Boys were the soundtrack to my youth, starting in 1986, when I was 10 and their first album dropped. They accompanied me through the minefields of junior high, high school, college, into my mid-twenties. I memorized their songs to impress my big brothers, I shook my rump to Paul’s Boutique throughout college, I commuted to my first job in San Diego listening to Intergalactic. The Beasties were a beacon of cool—artists who did their own thing, and made it big. They were cute, smart, funny, talented, irreverent—all of the qualities of a good big brother. And they knew how to have fun.

As I trolled the internet, twitter and Facebook Friday night for reactions and news about MCA, I smiled to read about the uproar their first album caused with concerned parents. Apparently they had a giant blow up penis onstage at their concerts, and some of the lyrics were objectionable. But parents, as they often do, missed the point. Even at 10, I knew they were being ironic. They kind of meant it, they kind of didn’t. They liked to have fun, but come on, fighting for your right to party? It’s hyperbole. And my favorite song on the album is Paul Revere, a story of being on the run from the law, holding up bars, wreaking havoc on society. Sung by three goofy kids, it was funny. “Mike D grabbed the money, MCA stashed the gold, I grabbed two girlies and a beer that’s cold.”

My love for the Beasties culminated when James and I went to see them live. 22 years old, living in San Diego, working at our first post-collegiate jobs, we were both lifelong Beastie fans. When we heard they were playing Aztec stadium at SDSU, we decided we had to go, our lack of tickets notwithstanding. We showed up early, and combed the crowd outside, looking for extras. James insisted we hold out for general admission tickets, and somehow, we found ourselves inside, pressed right up against the stage, shouting every word in unison with the crowd. Yes, I almost got trampled in a mosh pit, but James gallantly saved me, and we danced and screamed and sang along to Beasties songs that covered twelve years. It was, to this day, the best show I ever saw, and one of the most fun nights of my life.

MCA wasn’t just a Beastie Boy, he was an activist, very involved in the movement to free Tibet. He was a father, a husband, and undoubtedly beloved by many people. Though I didn’t know MCA personally, I feel like part of my youth died with him. Because some of my happiest times growing up were accompanied by Beasties’ music. And how can there be any Beasties without MCA?

Thank you, MCA, for your music, for your humor, your dedication to freedom, your creativity, your example. You touched many lives in your forty-seven years on this earth, and you leave a legacy to be proud of.

Who was the soundtrack of your youth?


  1. I do not know their music but you make me want to

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  3. I heard these guys at my house when my son was growing up in the 80-90s. I have a hard time calling this music, though. Guess it's my generation.

    My soundtrack of youth starts with the British Invasion: Beatles, Stones, Dave Clark 5, Herman's Hermits, then moves on to Woodstock: Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Joni Mitchell.

    Sounds like you are really sad about MCA. I am sorry for your loss.

  4. Chris and I share a soundtrack and I add, Joan Baez, lots ot Motown, The Who's Tommy, an album I played so endlessly there must have been a groove in the vinyl, and the Association--Cherish was my favorite song as a teen. Imagine my excitement when Jim announced last week that the Association will play the new Cape May Convention Center this summer.
    In my twenties it was Bruce, Billy Joel, Elton John,James Taylor loved, loved, loved Melanie and Carole King

  5. Maurice Sendeck just passed too. And like you, I am mourning his death. All those memories reading his wonderful stories to my sons. When someone famous who was a part of our life dies, it is like they take a part of us with us. Artists really do touch our lives.

    James Taylor is my song hero along with Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen.

  6. Thanks for the comments, ladies. (Or should i say broads?) I love hearing about musicians and artists who shaped people's lives. I too was very sad at Maurice Sendak's passing. Thanks for the reminder, Peggy, that artists touch our lives. It gives me another reason to keep writing.