Five years ago yesterday, Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys died. I thought a lot about it yesterday. It seems like a lot of the time when I do these blog posts, I'm talking about something from my childhood.  This time, it's a little more relevant to speak of my adolescence. 

When I was a kid, music was all around me, naturally.  I had young and hip parents, and a sister who's about four years older than me. Everyone had their own tastes.  I grew up listening to The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, The Police, Van Halen, etc.  But I was about eleven years old when I found my own tastes in music.

I remember specifically the song that hit me: it was R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion."   From then on, I wanted tapes, and tons of 'em.  I listened to the radio constantly, carrying a tape Walkman with me on the bus and in school.  R.E.M. had a huge impact on me, and I still love them to this day.   The second band that hit me hard and made me listen to everything they ever put out was The Beastie Boys.

I remember I had to buy a second copy of Check Your Head because I played it so much I broke the tape in a few places.

Going back and finding Paul's Boutique really was a moment for me.  It was the first time I was really able to readily identify a sample in a song.

They were funny, they were smart, they did clever lyrics and they actually talked about things that mattered to me.  I learned about their jokey past and their progressive present.  They fought for women, for animals, for Tibet, for anything they felt was wrong in the world.  I know a lot of people don't like it when singers or musicians "get on a soapbox," but  I never minded with the Beasties because it sounded like they actually cared about what they were talking about, and weren't just making an appearance or wearing a ribbon to look like they cared.

But they never took themselves too seriously.

This video in particular grabbed me, because it is basically a remake of a terrible Italian B-movie called Diabolik, and I knew it because it was the very last episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, another big influence on me at the time.

I remember when Ill Communication came out, and "Sabotage" was such a big hit, even though the whole album and really in particular that song were nothing like what they'd done before on record.   It was a proud feeling, a feeling like, "this is mine, see how good it is," that I felt when everyone loved them, too.

The most important thing to me with The Beastie Boys was they were my first formal introduction to rap and hip hop music.  It set the bar high.  It also made me realize that there's crap music in every genre, not just pop! When people tell me that they listen to "everything but country and rap", I immediately bring up Johnny Cash and the Beastie Boys, and almost always the person capitulates.

Adam Yauch, who was known as MCA in the Beasties, died Friday, May 4, 2012 at the age of 47.  He'd been fighting cancer for a few years, and was too sick to be at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony.  While I know I didn't know the guy, when you spend a lot of time listening to a certain band or group or singer, you do feel like they're part of your life.

Their voice has always been there, their words and thoughts were there for you.  They put so much work, passion and effort into an album or a single or a visual presentation, and if they did it right, it felt like it was just for you.

Sometimes I felt that way with the Beastie Boys. I always enjoyed playing the tapes in the car for people who didn't know them very well.  Always it was a pleasant surprise.

Thanks, MCA.

Like a pinch on the neck from Mr Spock,