Sex, Drugs, and Rock-N-Roll. The dream for many musicians trying to make it to the top. When they reach the pinnacle, many times they cannot separate real life from their stage life, and they succumb to the pressures of maintaining superstar status. It happened to Elvis Presley. It happened to Janis Joplin. It happened to Michael Jackson. It happened to Whitney Houston.
What about the people who are able to maintain balance? One would assume they would live long healthy lives, perform reunion tours, make it into the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame.
Sadly, for Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, he only gets one out of the three.
I was devastated when I saw the news this afternoon. The Beastie Boys represent my youth. In 1986, when License to Ill was released, I was sixteen years old. I lived a half-hour from my high school, and I cherished the spring mornings when I would drive down I-480, blaring Fight for the Right (To Party). I know the adults scoffed. I was a sixteen-year-old girl in a Catholic school uniform; they probably thought I should have a bit more decorum. Screaming the lyrics with my windows unrolled probably showed them where I thought decorum could go!
The Beastie Boys were the voices of teenage angst and rebellion, and although I did not party the way the song suggested, I still felt that the song spoke to my hunger for non-conventionalism. The album itself spoke to me as well. The sound was fresh, eclectic, out of the progressive music norm where I had been cuddling. The music was loud and obnoxious, and I could tell that the musicians were having fun.
As I grew up, so did they. Their music evolved but it did not lose its edge. They continued to create complex, multifarious collections that showed their maturity. The best ingredient? It was still fun and that is what makes the Beastie Boys the quintessential band. Never did anyone question their passion and love for their craft.
The Beasties are part of me. Adam Yauch’s death saddens me because it reminds me that I am far away from that kid in the Chevette. It saddens me because it reminds me that healthy living and social conscientiousness does not always bring good karma.
I take solace in knowing Yauch was alive long enough to know that the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame. His music will be celebrated, and he will be immortalized in those halls. He was too sick to attend the induction ceremonies, but I have to believe that he was there in spirit, supporting his counterparts in his thoughts, just as they most likely supported him in their prayers.
Adam Yauch will never play a reunion tour. Nonetheless, I hope he died knowing that his spirit will forever be alive. Through his music and his social activism for the people of Tibet, he has literally touched millions of lives.