When I heard this morning that Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys had succumbed to cancer, it hit me hard. I didn’t expect it, and I wasn’t sure why I reacted this way. At first. Of course, there were the obvious reasons—Yauch was only 47, too young to die, and yet another reminder of my own mortality. And there was the fact that it was cancer, a horrible, ugly disease that the National Cancer Institute projects will claim the lives of more than half a million Americans in 2012.
I mean, I didn’t even know the guy. But the more I thought about it—and, of course, began playing Beasties songs in my head—something else became clear: the Beastie Boys’ songs are attached to only happy times in my life. And some of the best. They’re not the group you turned to when you were heartbroken, or angry, or looking for answers. MCA, Mike D and Ad-Rock were the guys you went to for a good time—road trips, parties, barbecues, swimming holes—the soundtrack to all of the fun and stupid things I went through when I was younger, and got away with.
The Beastie Boys were unexpected pioneers of hip-hop—all the proof I need is that warped cassette of Paul’s Boutique that now sits in a drawer. Or the stony video for “So What’cha Want” that Yauch directed himself as Nathaniel Hörnblowér. These Boys became men, leaving behind their frat-party lunkhead ways to become sage activists. And Yauch was probably the calmest and coolest of the three. They grew up, I grew up.
But enough with the melodrama. I leave you with my favorite B-Boys video, one that takes me right back to that roach-infested apartment in Chico, California, in 1992 where I saw it for the first time, having some silly times with some of my best friends. Thanks, Mr. Yauch.