Musician Jonah Matranga reflects on what it is that makes the death of Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch so profoundly personal to his fans.
I’ll start with what I wrote moments after hearing about it:
“Really shaken up hearing about MCA dying. There’s something about this particular person-I-didn’t-know-but-knew-through-what-they-made death that gets to me even more than most. Not exactly sure what it is. Regardless, it’s one more horrid reminder to stop fuckin around and really live this life. Love. Now.”
That post led to some nice exchanges with folks who were feeling the same sort of shook up. It also led to an invitation to write this. I’m still overwhelmed and frozen. Singing helped a lot, as it usually does. Tonight in Münster felt full and mournful and celebratory and silly and all the things that music should feel. I’m on tour right now. Strangely enough, I started this tour singing at the memorial of another young guy, younger than MCA even. He died of cancer too. Fuckin cancer. No, it doesn’t matter why he’s dead or what killed him. That’s not it.
I hate being away from home when feeling like this. I just want to hug my daughter. Adam had a daughter, too. She’s a teenager now. He’s not here to see her graduate high school, as I will get to see my daughter graduate in a couple weeks, G-d willing. I’m sure that’s part of why this cuts so deep. He was 5 years older than I am; I know that matters too.
One thing I did love about MCA in particular is how passionately he kept pushing as an artist and even moreso as a person. He seemed to really not give a fuck, in such a sweet and humble way. He spoke up and showed up so well, with seemingly so little ego attached. He did his thing, used his good fortune and gifts to walk it and talk it as well as he could, but never at the expense of his personal or artistic integrity. That’s really rare and great.
None of that is all of it either, though.
It’s not that I was so in love with the Beastie Boys. I mean, that first drop in ‘Shake Your Rump’ is one of my all-time favorite music moments, sure. There are plenty of other great tunes and bits that come to mind too, bringing with them all sorts of memories from adolescence on up. Thinking about that, it could be that the Beastie Boys made music that maybe made me and more people from more different walks of life than any other artist ever feel nerdy and cool simultaneously, feel silly and tough simultaneously; just feel alive and immortal in the way only a great beat with clever, sometimes deceptively deep rhymes rolling over it really can. They made music that was so youthful and infinite, which bashes right up against this sudden (to us), final, brutal proof of age, impermanence, fragility. We go away. Fast. For no reason.
Adam Yauch (he’ll always be MCA to me) was, as far as I can tell, a really good man. He’s gone now. I don’t know why that fucks me up so much. This thought just hit hard, though; it gives me a little light, maybe it will give you some too:
Whatever it is that I miss about him so much, I’m gonna give it all I’ve got to be that.
Follow Jonah on Twitter @JonahMatranga
AP Photo/Evan Agostini