There’s not much left to say about the unfortunate passing of Adam Yauch. I was a little young for their debut album Licensed to Ill*, but remember being entranced by the opening licks of “Sure Shot” in 1994. The Beastie Boys continued to be a steady part of the background soundtrack throughout my high school and college days.
The legacy of Yauch goes beyond the music, though – he’s also being celebrated for his activism for Tibet and peace in the Middle East, and for Oscilloscope Laboratories, the accomplishments of which was summarized neatly in Slate.
While reflecting on MCA, I keep returning to one of my favorite sayings – “a camel is a horse designed by committee”. From the music he created, to his music videos and documentaries, to the films he distributed through Oscilloscope, the work Yauch produced and promoted was very much the product of a strong singular vision. Just as one example – can you imagine the wonderfully bizarre and directionless 29-minute pseudo-music video “Fight For Your Right Revisited” being produced by a team of music or marketing execs?
Even if you didn’t enjoy his music, agree with his political views, or like any of the Oscilloscope-produced films, it would be difficult not to admire Yauch’s commitment to an unfettered “D.I.Y. approach“.
There’s always a risk when you creatively swing for the fences. But I’d rather take that risk a hundred times over than guarantee failure by playing it safe.
*I do fondly remember soaking in “Fight for Your Right”, “Rhymin’ and Stealin'”, and “Brass Monkey” with my cousin on cassette tape in the early 90’s