Bodhisattva Vow (For Adam “MCA” Yauch)

Published 2012-05-05

Earlier this week, maybe Wednesday, “Bodhisattva Vow” popped up in my iTunes. I may have listened to it intentionally. Regardless, I hadn’t gone out of my way to listen to a Beastie Boys song in a long time. So Adam Yauch AKA MCA was already on my mind.

And then yesterday.

In 1998, while doing archaeological fieldwork, I was driving across Arizona with a coworker perhaps ten years older than me. But we were people of similar minds, it was easy to lose track of our age differences. We were pretty far out in the sticks and listening to a Mexican Radio station playing a bewildering mix of mostly-American pop. A classic rock song like “Take it Easy” came on the radio, and he reminisced about college in the 70s. Then “Sabotage” came on the radio and he said, unprompted: “can you believe a song like this will be someone’s memory of college?” To which I replied: “yeah, me.Ill Communication was one of those albums on constant rotation at college parties in 1992 or so.

I didn’t like Beastie Boys — any rap music, actually — in high school. In college I heard some of their early singles on bootleg. They started out around 1980 as a punk band. I came late to the realization that rap in the late 80s embodied the DIY ethos I loved in Punk. I was a convert.

As a child of my generation I relate to the Beasties; they are ours. In this way Beastie Boys are kind of my generation’s Beatles (a band everyone knows and has a favorite song from). I have my favorite Beastie Boys songs. “Bodhisattva Vow” — definitely an MCA vehicle — is one of them. AVClub called Adam Yauch “the George Harrison of Beastie Boys.” George was my favorite Beatle, too.

I never would have thought I’d spent a whole day thinking about MCA’s death. More, maybe, than I thought about Kurt Cobain’s at that time. Adam Yauch was a guy about my age, who lived a good and healthy life (like me). He spent his time creating fun and solidly likeable stuff. He grew from a snotty punk into a man with a sense of integrity, and a duty to spreading compassion. He was relatable. He was the guy I could have been if I were a little smarter and little more ambitious.