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The Lives They Lived
December 31, 2012 11:34 AM   Subscribe

The New York Times Magazine's latest issue, The Lives They Lived, is a tribute to cultural icons that have died in 2012. Adam Yauch, a.k.a MCA of the Beastie Boys, is featured on the cover.

Alex Pappademas of Grantland writes about MCA's growth as a person, and how it influnced the group:
It's Yauch who raps, “I wanna say a little something that's long overdue/The disrespect to women has got to be through” on “Sure Shot,” from “Ill Communication” (1994). Should it have been obvious from the beginning that disrespecting women wasn't O.K.? Sure. But now they were calling themselves on their own failings of judgment.
He's included in The Music They Made, a montage of the musicians who died this year.

The issue also features: Neil Armstrong, Don Cornelius, Whitney Houston, Maurice Sendak, and many others.
posted by danny the boy (19 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Long before the Huxtables opened up their townhouse in Brooklyn Heights to millions of viewers, long before Vanessa Williams was crowned the first black Miss America, indeed, nearly 40 years before the Obamas moved into the White House, Don Cornelius conceived of a TV show that gave most middle-class white teenagers their first real glimpse of popular black culture. And what they saw through that window was unadulterated joy — a deep love of music and the irrepressible urge to dance to it. (They were also getting a peek at the future; by the ’90s, black music and dance was the culture.)

....The night before graduation, I remember leaving a party where a bunch of white guys were standing around a keg listening to “Free Bird” and driving to Whitesboro to meet Tanya at her friend Darlene’s house. Every stick of furniture in the living room had been moved upstairs, the rug rolled up and dropped on the front lawn. Cousins, parents, aunts and uncles, folks from around the way — they were all going full tilt to the S.O.S. Band and the Sugarhill Gang, doing the Rock and the Dog. Eventually, the crowd lined up on either side of the room, and everyone took a turn tearing it up through the middle, “Soul Train”-style, until they each had their time to shine.
-- Jonathan Van Meter's remembrance of Soul Train in the Don Cornelius piece.
posted by y2karl at 11:54 AM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Beastie Boys has been the group that has endured with me for my entire music life, while many other favorite bands and genres have been sent to the bottom of my listening pile. I think Pappademas hits it on the head: they're one of the few groups that have allowed their development as people to be clear in the music they make. I grew up, and so did they. That's why I never outgrew them.

From rapping "I got the jammie but I don't got the permit" on B-Boy Bouillabaisse to showing Yauch destroying (presumably) his handgun in the video for Something's Got To Give. 1989 - 1992.
posted by danny the boy at 11:57 AM on December 31, 2012


Also featured this year is my friend Alex. His death this summer cast a shadow over what was otherwise a very good year. I'm sure he'd be tickled to be featured in the same pages as MCA and Whitney Houston.
posted by fancypants at 12:30 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had no idea Adrienne Rich had died this year. I'm almost unbearably sad to read that she's gone. I'm trying not to cry, because I wouldn't be able to explain to the people around me why. I wouldn't have the words. She would, though.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:15 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ghidorah, if you don't want to cry, then DO NOT READ the Maurice Sendak one. That one made me not just trickle but full-out sob.
posted by ottereroticist at 2:07 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does it bother no one else that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and the NYTMagazine decided to put Yauch on the cover? Like when did entertaining ourselves become the thing by which we wish to be defined. Is that off beat? Am I missing something.
posted by samofidelis at 2:13 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Armstrong walked on the moon, sure. Adam Yauch (who, it should be noted, was a New Yorker who celebrated New York) made an experience that we could all relive and imitate and enjoy and be part of -- again and again and again.
posted by Madamina at 2:20 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


But that doesn't even make sense. There's just as much permanence to the media documenting the moonwalk as there is to the Beastie Boys' music. The NYC myopia doesn't bear.
posted by samofidelis at 2:27 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had no idea Adrienne Rich had died this year. I'm almost unbearably sad to read that she's gone. I'm trying not to cry, because I wouldn't be able to explain to the people around me why. I wouldn't have the words. She would, though.

the mefi obit, if you missed it.
posted by juv3nal at 2:36 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does it bother no one else that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and the NYTMagazine decided to put Yauch on the cover?

Doesn't bother me. In addition to Yauch's much deeper New York connection already noted, I don't think it's hard to mount an argument that Adam Yauch's life's work was more singular than Armstrong's.

To wit: Any number of skilled test pilots, given sufficient specialized training, could do (and in some cases did do) what Neil Armstrong did. He was the central actor in a human drama of epochal import, to be sure, but Armstrong was not the sole or even primary architect of his moment. He was, to a significant degree, a techician executing a series of tasks. (I say this as the son of a fighter pilot; I am well aware of the skill, risk and dedication the career involves. But I'm also reasonably sure that when my father was flying F-104s in the mid-1960s, he possessed most of the same skill set Armstrong did prior to being selected for the Apollo program.) Even without Neil Armstrong, in other words, some American astronaut was going to walk on the moon. The Apollo program itself is the maker of that history.

Whereas the Beastie Boys, and their enormously significant place in pop music history, particularly for a certain generation of music fans - these things simply would not have happened without Yauch. Without Yauch, there simply is no "Something's Got to Give," no "Gratitude," no "Root Down," no monster fuzz-bass riff on "Sabotage." This music mattered deeply to a great many people. This isn't NYC myopia; this is the recognition that Yauch was at least as important to pop music in his day as Armstrong was to space exploration. And that both are significant aspects of modern civilization.

Put another way, music - including MCA's - isn't just entertainment to a great many of us. It's a certain rich and rewarding strain of life's essence. And if you contribute to that strain in a singular way, then yes, you deserve the cover of the NY Times Magazine just as much as an astronaut does.
posted by gompa at 3:41 PM on December 31, 2012 [7 favorites]


Does it bother no one else that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and the NYTMagazine decided to put Yauch on the cover? Like when did entertaining ourselves become the thing by which we wish to be defined. Is that off beat? Am I missing something.

It did bother me, and I'm possibly within the target demographic for that editorial choice (although I might be on the younger side). I agree with you that it seemed like an odd priority for a news organization (I wouldn't question it in a music magazine).
posted by overeducated_alligator at 4:02 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


And if you contribute to that strain in a singular way, then yes, you deserve the cover of the NY Times Magazine just as much as an astronaut does.

I'm probably biased because I stopped enjoying the Beasties when I went off to college -- too many songs on the Dana-dah-dah dah dah dah DAH [everyone shouts on the last beat] meter, without enough variation -- and I have an ax to grind about race and hip hop, but really, when it comes to singular: only twelve people in history have set foot on another world. The importance of that has very little to do with Armstrong's prowess as a pilot; indeed, as an individual his passing isn't perhaps that important.

But his death marks the turn of an epoch, I think. And it's surprising that the NYT didn't choose that story to lead. Maybe it's an editorial decision to steer away from the obvious choice? Perhaps.

As for the NYC thing: I think it is navelgazing, but it's always hard to convince New Yorkers that they're guilty of that. Or that it's a shortcoming. But the NYT wants to be the national paper of record -- it can't play the local boy card.

Anyway, sorry for the derail.
posted by samofidelis at 4:22 PM on December 31, 2012


Forget the Beastie Boys. Cracked pointed out that the inventors of Marshall amps and pinball flippers died this year. Without them my life would suck, though my hearing would be better and my wrists would be much less supple.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:20 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did Yauch’s evolution as a person drive the Beasties’ evolution as a band? Did they grow in order to keep up with him? It’s hard to know.

It's not hard to know. It's obvious to anyone who was listening. Yauch's rhymes were always interesting and always made sense and were usually pretty funny, more than you can always say for the other two.
posted by bleep at 6:23 PM on December 31, 2012


Ottereroticist, thanks for pointing me to the Sendak one. I hadn't heard that interview, and I'm kind of newly appreciative (again) of things like that being possible on the web. I haven't seen the print edition, but I don't know how it could be as touching as that.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:30 AM on January 1, 2013


Regarding Armstrong vs Yauch, I think about it this way: If, within a trainable period before Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong had come down with a cold, broke his arm, or said "It's too damn weird, I'm not going!" would Apollo 11 have happened? Yes. Perhaps with a little delay, but the whole space program is about backups and interchangeable parts.

Can the same be said about MCA's place in the Beastie Boys?

Armstrong did wonderful things in his life. He was, by most accounts, a decent human being. But generally (I'm thinking of some of his piloting derring-do on the descent to Tranquility), he was as critical to Apollo 11 as the last railroad spike was to the meeting of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific. I would argue that it's his post-Apollo 11 career where his fundamental humility shone.
posted by aureliobuendia at 8:46 AM on January 1, 2013


I don't think this article represents a competition in the sense of Time's Person of the Year or similar. I can't help thinking they made the Armstrong vs Yauch decision based on the kinds of things you can say about each, or the kinds of things they felt able to write at the time-- from the perspective we have right at this moment. Or even more, on the pictures available. The Armstrong tribute is a picture, no? That drawing would not have worked as a cover image in my opinion, so then what else to use?
posted by BibiRose at 10:23 AM on January 1, 2013


Man, when did this turn into your favorite band vs your favorite astronaut sucks ? A nuanced enthusiasm and appreciation of an important figure in a sub-genre of American popular music is commendable but, seriously, it's not a talent contest or some zero sum game. One person will be more well remembered than the other no matter how many super well trained alternates there might have been. If it's about more universal recognition forever, first person to walk on the moon rules. Despite all the alternates, there could be only One.

Ancillary and deeper to that is that it is about being a historic figure after such fact and how he bore that. That is a compelling and cautionary story, too, that adds to the gravitas.
posted by y2karl at 2:09 PM on January 1, 2013


Plus, what BibiRose said.
posted by y2karl at 2:18 PM on January 1, 2013


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