I was struck by a wave of nostalgia last week. Actually, I was gobbled up by the wave, tossed on to the beach where I was subsequently picked up by a gust of wind and thrown back into the ocean so the wave would jerk me about like a lottery ball.
Adam Yauch had died from cancer.
Yauch was more widely known as MCA, one of the smart-mouthed rappers of the Beastie Boys, and a great chunk of my high-school years was spent in my room listening to the Beastie Boys and Run DMC. You see, the two were almost considered a package deal back then, as hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons often grouped them together for shows and public appearances.
It was brilliant marketing for a burgeoning genre of music. Run DMC had “street cred” and were already a powerful force in rap music. The Beastie Boys were newer to the scene, but their rebellious attitude and obvious talent drew a whole new fanbase to Simmons’ world. I got exposed to Run DMC and others in the industry because of the Beastie Boys. And the Beastie Boys got instant credibility because of their connection to Simmons and Run DMC.
I get that marketing concept now. I actually kind of saw it play out again at the end of the 1990s when established hip-hop personality Dr. Dre began exposing the world to a young, mouthy white rapper named Eminem. Dre picked up another group of fans because of Eminem, and Eminem picked up many of the hardcore fans of Dre.
But I didn’t really appreciate the business side of that collaboration at the time. I just enjoyed the music, plain and simple. It wasn’t change-the-world music by any means, but it was fun. You would laugh at some of the lyrics the Beastie Boys would record, and you would find yourself singing along — either by yourself in your bedroom, or in a car packed tightly with a group of your friends.
And that’s where the nostalgia grabbed me.
The Beastie Boys played a prominent role in the soundtrack of my high-school years. To this day, I can hear one of their old songs come on the radio and I instantly find myself mouthing the words and thinking about those goofy Friday nights when my friends and I would drive around aimlessly looking for a party or cute girls or the nearest McDonald’s. A lot of those evenings ended with eight of us splitting the cost of a Big Mac and getting rejected by a plethora of cute and maybe not-so-cute girls, but those were still good nights.
And the Beastie Boys were often the music on the ride home.
Here is where this week’s digression begins...
Of course, I can’t think of those years without thinking of my mother, as well. No, she was not a huge fan of MCA or the Beastie Boys in general, but she was a Latin teacher at my high school, and many of my friends had her as a teacher. I think about how, to this day, when I speak with somebody from my high-school years, they almost always ask me how my mother is doing and what she is up to these days.
I’m almost ashamed to admit that we’re having our 25th reunion this summer, but that also kind of tells you the impact she had on so many young people throughout her teaching career. A lot of those “kids” I used to hang out with now have children of their own, and some of them are teachers at the same schools we attended years ago. But they still remember my mother fondly, and more than a few of them have asked me to make sure she goes to the reunion.
Yeah, I’m sad that Adam Yauch died last week. I feel like a very big part of my adolescent life died with him, but the twisty, curvey highway of my mind led me to think about my mother and the people she affected years ago. And that makes me proud.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy. You still got it.