When I realized that today was MCA Day—Beastie Boy Adam Yauch died a year ago today—I verged on tears. When I saw this bit about Palmetto Playground being renamed Adam Yauch Park, I went full-bore. More than almost any other figure in popular culture, Yauch meant the world to me, even when the Beastie Boys did not. I wrote the following on the day that he passed:
It would be an understatement to suggest that I was saddened by the news of Adam Yauch’s passing. For someone who is as cause-oriented as I am while also maintaining an appreciation for the absurd and creating art, he was a towering giant. Yauch [and the Beastie Boys] made exceptional music and his video work was essential in getting me to pay attention to and become involved with the medium. And, an advocate for the liberation of Tibet and the popularization of that cause throughout the 90s, he showed his fans that it was possible to simultaneously care about big things while also maintaining a sense of humor.
I won’t go on and on because I was less a super-fan than someone who was touched and changed by Yauch’s life, but I remember seeing the Beastie Boys about 7 or 8 years ago. We got to the show really early and there were only a couple hundred people in the center. Yauch rode a longboard into the audience, digital video camera in hand, and he shot the crowd for a couple of minutes before hopping off to chat with fans. What struck me was that here he was, just about 40 at the time, still quietly, though powerfully making passion, art, and graciousness look good.
I have touched on his involvement with video production a couple of times now and it is important to underscore Yauch’s often-overlooked contribution to film. Oscilloscope Laboratories, his production company, provided for a marriage of his obvious passion for social change. The Other F Word, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, Howl, William S. Burroughs: a Man Within Exit Through the Giftshop, The Messenger, Burma VJ and No Impact Man are some of my favorites among its dozens of releases. Videos that have the Oscilloscope Laboratories name stamped on them are almost certainly worth the investment of your attention.
While I haven’t shined a particularly new light on him, I feel it important to posthumously thank Yauch. Thanks for the music and inspiration; thanks for making caring cool, especially during a time the popularization of ramped-up cynicism and sardonic irony; thanks for sharing all of the things he shared. I am not one for celebrity worship, but I got choked up when I heard that you were no longer with us. This is a rare impact for today’s modern celebrity to impart, but I truly believe that I am a better person for his having lived, having created.
Thank you, MCA. May you rest in peace.
IMAGE CREDIT: Steve Appleford