While this is obviously a blog about the Nashville music scene, I would be remiss to not write something about the passing today of Adam Yauch, aka MCA, of the Beastie Boys. Not because I have any more authority than anyone else (I clearly don’t), not because I have listened to the Beastie Boys more lately than some old Tom Waits or the new Jack White. I haven’t.
I wanted to write something because, being from New York, MCA represented my city at its modern best: innovative, experimental, able to suck from the streets the greatness, the grit, the guts of NYC and spin it into something genius and new. He started an indie music label, a movie company, fought for Tibet and showed a new generation of kids how to be politically active. That music had power. Scratch that – how it has power.
My friends and I would sit in my bedroom on 1st Avenue listening to Beastie Boys records, drinking forties (yeah, I know) or vodka we swiped from my mother. Though we all liked a lot of different music, and neither of my two closest girlfriends could stand my penchant towards the occasional live Grateful Dead tape, we’d all sing along to “Brass Monkey.” To “Girls.” I once fell asleep listening over the phone to Hello Nasty with my best guy friend, who had bought the CD before me. This was before Napster or Spotify of course, and he lived closer to the Tower Records than I did. So he put the record on, placed the phone down next to it and I sat in my bed listening until I woke up the next morning with a swirly phone-cord mark imprinted on my face. I did that not because I liked the Beastie Boys more than the next person. I did that because we all liked the Beastie Boys. We just all could agree on that one thing. New York could, even.
I don’t miss New York. I miss that New York – more of a period of time, really, when people like MCA fought for causes they believed in and made music that no one had heard before; when they were people you admired, not celebrities. When you didn’t need to Occupy Wall Street because an artist or writer could actually afford to live there. The time when we fell asleep listening to records based on who was able to buy it first. Shit, I miss when people paid for those records. Nashville’s given me some of that back, which is why I am thankful every day that I live here.
There have been too many good people lost of late to mention. But I wanted to write about Adam Yauch because for whatever reason this was the music that brought me and my friends together. It made me think about how men can be great, music can be magic and youth can be the most difficult thing and fucking stellar all at the same time.
I know MCA’s beliefs would have him just beginning the next journey. Let’s take a moment to think about ours, and how important music, the people who make it and just the rest of us who listen to it, together, actually are. Together. That can be our Nashville.
Here’s some video of Beastie’s at Bonnaroo: