Monday, May 7, 2012
As Dean Stanforth so profoundly laments in the latest installment of the Indiana Jones franchise, "We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away".
The music industry has received one dismal blow after another following the deaths of Ronnie Montrose, Levon Helm and Dick Clark, only to be shaken further with the untimely passing of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, just weeks after their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Celebrities, fans and fellow musicians flooded Twitter with well wishes for the families of these beloved figures. Considering the indelible mark they've left over several decades it's hard to escape the feeling that a piece of our youth has died with them.
Ronnie Montrose, the legendary guitarist whose band Montrose was the launching pad for a very young Sammy Hagar, spawning two of Rock's most highly regarded albums, passed away before what would have been a full reunion of the original Montrose lineup. That original lineup, including Ronnie, Bill Church, Denny Carmassi, and Sammy have not performed publicy together since 2005. Following news of his death, Sammy put together an all-star tribute show in San Francisco recently, including the remaining members along with special guests Joe Satriani and members of Journey, Tesla, Mr. Big, Styx and Kiss. Ronnie had successfully battled Prostate Cancer in 2009, but it returned. Ronnie battled depression all his life, and January's back to back losses of his beloved dog and an uncle took its toll. With a BAC of .31, Ronnie ended his pain with a single gunshot following a haunting text to his wife proclaiming his love, and his exit.
Dick Clark was responsible for launching many careers and introducing many new acts and genres to mainstream audiences, erasing color lines through music. Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve was the most watched show of that evening for decades. Throughout his career, he received several accolades for his contributions including 4 Emmy awards and inductions into the Hall of Fame for Rock and Roll, Broadcasting, and National Radio, to name a few. Many 80's icons, such as Madonna, got their start on American Bandstand, hosted by Dick Clark. It was on that show that Clark asked what she hoped to achieve for the remainder of her career. Madonna quietly responded, “To rule the world.”
Just two weeks after their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Beastie Boys lost founding member Adam "MCA" Yauch, just 47 years old. Adam was unable to attend but fellow Beastie Boy Mike D. read a letter from Adam thanking fans and family, most notably his wife and daughter. Adam had fought Cancer for years, which kept him from performing hindered his involvement in the group, mostly during the recording and release of their final album "Hot Sauce Committee, Pt.2". The Rock Hall induction ceremony was aired on HBO the day after Adam passed, and the show was dedicated to him. The Beastie Boys' impact, not only on Hip Hop but music in general, has been celebrated more in the past week than ever before. Fellow 2012 inductees the Red Hot Chili Peppers paid tribute by performing a few Beastie classics on the first show following news of his death, with singer Anthony Kiedis wearing a green shirt adorned with handwritten label "MCA".
Many Hip Hop legends have been very vocal about owing a great deal of their success to the Beastie Boys, including an admittedly "teary-eyed" Chuck D, and LL Cool J who revealed that it was the Beastie Boys who got him his first record deal by playing his demo for producer Rick Rubin. LL mentioned that they weren't just the first white rappers, but that they helped other artists get into the business. I feel like they helped to break down racial barriers, being the only white rappers, which no longer Adam has been heavily lauded for his supportive nature as well as his humor and overall personality and willingness to help others. I watched a video recently of the Beastie Boys performing at the 2006 VH1 Hip Hop Honors, and it was amazing to see these 3 Jewish white guys rocking the stage and seeing some of Hip Hop's biggest names, including rappers like Ice Cube, a hardcore gangsta rapper, and Def Jam mogul Russell Simmons, among others, nodding their heads in rhythm. To see the look of admiration and respect for these unlikely Hip Hop heroes was a beaming example of the power Music has to shatter racial barriers and unite people. Eminem has spoken out about Adam's death, saying that their impact on his career is obvious as Eminem, like the Beastie Boys, is one of the most respected artists in the Hip Hop community. Aside from Em and the Beastie Boys, there really aren't any white rappers out there who are even marginally relevant, which makes them an elite crowd. I'll be rocking "Sabotage" and many others in Adam's honor....NO SLEEP TILL BROOKLYN!!
Music is a very important part of my life, even though it's not my career and I'm not involved in it beyond being a huge fan of many genres and artists. To lose artists such as Adam or Ronnie, or Levon, and iconic figures like Dick Clark who have such an impact on other artists and fans, whether you followed their music or not, is tragic and can make people feel like a part of their life is over because music is the soundtrack of our lives.
At the same time, it can be a reminder of their impact on the world thanks to the outpouring of love and respect from fans. It's unfortunate that many artists' contributions aren't celebrated until their passing, and I hope the loss of Adam and Ronnie leads to more and more of their fans passing on their music to future generations. May the Bad Motor Scooter ride on, and may everyone continue to "Fight For Your Right (To Party!)".