I thought I was having a fever dream when I heard that Adam Yauch had died. I was travelling and had come down with a virus, so I woke up from an afternoon nap in my hotel room, clammy and achy and I turned on the TV to see what time it was. It was on Much Music and the super in the bottom right-hand corner said "RIP MCA." I really thought I was dreaming. I left a fevered, rambling phone message to my closest Beastie Boys fan friend, M.
In 2009, Yauch announced that he had cancer in one of his salivary glands and not long ago denied reports that he was cancer-free. He didn't attend the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction of the Beastie Boys, and all three Boys have been conspicuously missing from the first two videos from their newest album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. I didn't put two and two together - I just thought they were being reclusive. I didn't realise it was because MCA was so ill he couldn't appear (no pun intended). I guess I wasn't paying close enough attention.
There are many reasons his death is tragic.
To begin, the very human loss of a young man with a young family to a cancer that he understood was very treatable. Yauch also had a noble social conscience. A Buddhist, he was active in Tibetan independence protests and worked to support Tibetans in exile. In all the tributes I've been reading, the affection that friends and fans felt for this man are so moving.
Then, musically. Yauch was a third of the Beastie Boys. The symbiosis between these three men is one hundred percent part of their identity. They would trade off performing verses, and words, and syllables. I'm sure, over the years, performing their parts became a muscle memory, and now, it's bittersweet to listen to any Beastie Boys song, because MCA performed one third of it.
The remaining Beasties must be devastated. They had been friends and partners for over 30 years. They grew together, three bad brothers we know so well. They evolved from misogynistically rapping about "Girls" who do their laundry for them to penance by "[offering their] love and respect to the end" to "the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends" in "Sure Shot."
I feel like I'm rambling, but it's been three weeks since Yauch died and I'm still blue about it. It's different from when Amy Winehouse died. She was just as important, musically and culturally, but she was a solo artist. I feel like a limb has been removed from the Beastie Boys. Two limbs. Or maybe just a piece of the heart.
Link: The Hollywood Reporter's nice compilation of regrets.
I'm so glad I got to see the Beastie Boys live when they were touring for To The Five Boroughs. They performed with such joy and energy! They seemed like they were having so much fun, rapping and dancing and playing, you could forget how good they were and how hard it is to do what they did so well. I'm mixing up past and present tense, I know, but I'm unsure of the group's future without Yauch.
Seeking solace through friends, I wrote a good man, Michał, telling him I was bummed, and he replied with exactly what I wanted to hear: "MCA. It hasn't sunk in yet, but if Ill Communication was any indication, he's with Buddha now. Or he is Buddha." It made me smile, and it made me happy. Thanks, Michał. Thanks, MCA.