Adam Yauch, 1964 – 2012

Today is a very sad day in that Beastie Boy Adam Yauch has died. He was a terrific musician and filmmaker and a warm, funny person who a lot of people loved. I got to know him a little bit in the ’90s because my roommate from college helped him run his Tibetan-Freedom organization, The Milarepa Fund. The way that he handled the news of his cancer diagnosis three years ago impressed me as amazingly graceful. Which was not a surprise—the way he handled it, I mean. He had always handled maturing, and changing, in the public eye more gracefully than many other examples we’ve seen.

When the Beasties started out, with the beer-spraying and the girls dancing in cages and whatnot, Yauch was the loudest, most raucous and drunken member of a notably loud, raucous, drunken crew. But as time went by, he became a voice for peace and sensitivity and caring about the world—without ever turning shrill or holier-than-thou. He became gentle and soft-spoken without losing his sense of humor. I remember reading an interview (I wish I could find it but I can’t) in which the reporter challenged him on the change: “Is the current pose not hypocritical in light of the past?” Yauch didn’t flinch or get mad or defensive. He said most everyone has a time in their life that they look back on with regret. He used the word “asshole,” I think. And he said, “We just happened to be on TV a lot when we were assholes.” I’m paraphrasing, but I think that’s pretty much it. I think about that a lot as I get older myself, and look back at stupid things I’ve done. And as I’ve been writing about those things a lot over the past couple years, I hope to be as honest about stuff as he was. And as kind-hearted and forgiving. He was a really good guy.