In Memoriam: Adam Yauch, Professor Emeritus, Sounds of Science

We’ve lost quite a few great talents over the last year.  While tragic, I have generally resisted the media’s entreaties to jump on the bandwagon of blustery sentiment over the passing of washed up celebs such as Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.

There are a couple exceptions to this immunity to emotion:
– A highly creative, prolific genius is taken from us at a young age
– Individual has not given us everything they could have, if given more time
– Individual’s body of work overlaps with key phases of your life

When Steve Jobs succumbed to cancer last fall, for instance, I shed many a tear.  I’d cut my teeth in technology developing programs in BASIC as an 8-year old on the Apple IIe.  Gargantuan and cumbersome in comparison to its successor diminutive Mac Mini and MacBook incarnations, the Apple II product line was revolutionary for its time.  Jobs (and Steve Wozniak) moved computers from the realm of government and multi-billion dollar corporations, into the schools and homes of the masses.

For similar reasons, I grew extremely sad yesterday I learned of the passing of Adam Yauch, the older, wiser member of the seminal hip-hop group the Beastie Boys.  The Beasties are similar in many ways to another iconic group that factors heavily in the turntable rotation on my iFi: The Beatles.  Their songs defined a generation, they melded numerous different themes and musical styles, and they continually reinvented their modus operandi or (in keeping with the Beasties’ vernacular) shtick.

I took a quick trip down memory lane to reflect upon some highlights from The Beasties’ corpus of work.

License to Ill.  Ah the 80’s.  Robert Downey Jr. showed the horrors of life imitating art in Less than ZeroGordon Gekko rhapsodized creepily about the benefits of greed (and Brylcreem, no doubt) in Wall Street.  And a trio of misfits from the Big Apple implored us to fight for our right to party.  Of course, their bacchanalian themes went completely over my Toledo Mudhens hat-wearing 6th grade head.  In my world, the implications were far more innocuous: your popularity was defined in large part by your ability to recite “Paul Revere” by heart.

Paul’s Boutique. 
The Beasties’ Exile on Main Street: far from a commercial success, but regarded by many critics and consumers as their best work.  The album was such a departure from their previous MTV-ready smash hit that it barely registered in the press.  My friends and I revisited this album in the early 90’s, and played it ad nauseum in the hallowed dorms of Washington University.  On this album, Adam and the B-Boys collaborated with the Dust Brothers, who would later work with Beck on Odelay (another artist and album that Nikhil Torsekar likes a lot).

Check Your Head.  The early 90’s spawned a few outfits that bore a striking resemblance to the Beasties, the most notable being the nasal Cypress Hill and party-prone House of Pain.  The Beasties were therefore wise to change their tune up a bit here, revisiting their punk roots in tunes such as Gratitude and Time for Livin. Additionally, tunes like Namasté gave a preview of the group’s embrace of Eastern philosophies that would go full force on Ill Communication.
I wouldn’t say they “jumped the shark” with Ill Communication, but I found their albums after 1993 to be far less memorable than their prior work.

Thursday morning, I was unaware that Adam Yauch was sick.  I randomly happened to issue the following tweet:

There are a few Beastie classics that get heavy airplay during the roughly 8 hours I spend in my car during the week (notably the palliative Namasté ).  But Paul’s Boutique is an album I hadn’t listened to in years.  I’m glad I got to take a trip down memory lane and revisit this timeless classic.

Farewell Papa Yauch; thanks for (in your own words)
“dropping the new science and kicking the new knowledge” and for being
“An M.C. to a degree that you can’t get in college”

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About Nikhil Torsekar
Nikhil Torsekar is a Senior Manager with Sagence Group, management advisory firm dedicated to helping clients maximize the value of their data assets. He has over 10 years of experience delivering innovative solutions to clients in health care, telecommunications, automotive, and financial services industries. When not talking about his fanatic interest in business trends, social media or devices that start with a lowercase “i,” he enjoys running, reading, and spending time with his awesome family. Connect with him via Twitter (@torsekar) or LinkedIn (

3 Responses to In Memoriam: Adam Yauch, Professor Emeritus, Sounds of Science

  1. Jeb Ory says:

    Nikhil, you absolutely nailed it with this post. I felt the same way. So true, and M.C. to a degree that. you. can’t. get. in. college.

    They transcended music, made a mark on the world, and were the off-beat, wacky, energetic fuel for a generation. They will live on forever.

  2. Jesal says:

    Thank you Nikhil for this piece. It was a nice mini trip down memory lane. I have had this strange feeling since I heard about his passing. I now realize that this feeling is of losing “one of our own” and understanding that Gen X is approching middle age. This emotion is what sparked my morning runs to Body Movin’ this week!

  3. Pingback: Five Ways to Soothe The Savage Beast « SMB Matters – Small and Mid-Sized Business Blog

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