It can be strange how we people react when someone famous dies. I never hung out with MCA – but I sure felt like I did. Adam Yauch felt like a friend. He was an artist that has sung to me since I was ridiculous teenager. I have been inspired by his music and have always felt personally connected to the Beastie Boys– they sung about places or television commercials that I recognized as a New Yorker, (“Got more suits than Jacoby and Myers” only a New Yorker knows what that is!). I felt like I was listening to people that I knew. When Cliff and I lived in NYC on Prince Street we had numerous Adam Yauch sightings – at the pizza place, picking up laundry or pushing his baby girl in a stroller. These run-ins always gave us an excited tingly feeling, like we were living near greatness, but also near our friend.
His death brings another level of identification, in that he was a peer. Adam was only 47 years old. He had a child and a wife and a large circle of friends. When I break it down like that he was no different than you or I. He didn’t blow his brains out like Kurt Cobain or waste away on drugs. He died of Cancer. Any one of us can get cancer. A stone cold reality as we age – and that is a scary pill to swallow. His death has forced me to contemplate the inevitability of my own death and the legacy that I hope to leave behind. I have asked myself over the past few days, “Have I done enough?” “Am I living the life I want to live?” These are heavy, reflective questions to ask while in the torrent of everyday adult life - But they are also healthy and necessary as well.
Maybe that duality is why Adam Yauch’s death is so hard – I have come to realize that I thought of him as a friend, a mentor, who has been with me each step since I was a teenager. And what is different about his death, than the passing of Michael Jackson, is there has never been any scandal or drug abuse with MCA. Michael Jackson, as gifted and brilliant musician as he was – I perceived him as a sad, incomplete human. His childhood was stunted by crushing fame. And even though he created music that is indelible and enduring, Michael Jackson was living on a bankrupt ranch named Never Land and accused of diddling little boys, his death hastened years of drug abuse. Sad – yes. But I found it to be merciful and not surprising.
Adam Yauch doesn’t have any of those tainted qualities. He was never mired in scandal, and the Beasties were not only adored by fans but they were respected musicians who crossed and erased racial boundaries through music. He was a Buddhist and a humanitarian. He was a filmmaker, writer, a father a husband a son and a friend.
If there was any religion I would consider following, it would be Buddhism. Adam Yauch was a Buddhist. The Buddhists believe that death is not the end of life, but simply the end of this body we have inhabited. When we die our spirit continues and seeks out a new life or new body. Where and how we are reborn is determined by the accumulation of positive and negative action, which is our Karma. I believe that MCA accumulated some amazing karma in his short life.