The first concert I ever went to was in Philadelphia back in 1998, just before starting high school: the Beastie Boys performing with a Tribe Called Quest. Attending it, obviously, made me the coolest kid in school, at least up until the moment the school year actually started. A border-line obsessive fan at the time — dude, I even had a website about the Beastie Boys that was way more popular than this shitty one — I remember enjoying every moment from my rafter seats. But one memory sticks out: the recently deceased Adam Yauch, or “MCA,” speaking out against the Clinton administration’s bombing of Iraq.
This was not a popular thing to do at the time, it being well into year eight of the campaign to paint Saddam Hussein as the next Hitler, only this time perhaps even more crazy and Arab-y. That was reflected in the mostly young and hip crowd’s response to Yauch’s comments about how maybe the U.S. government shouldn’t be bombing the people of Iraq: a chorus of boos. But that didn’t shut him up; about a month later, he repeated his anti-war message to a much larger audience at the MTV VMAs, pointing out that each American-made cruise missile only perpetuated the circle of violence and invited the prospect of future retaliation.
Yeah, just a musician, a celebrity who ought to have kept to himself all his silly notions about politics and not killing people, gawh dammit. But he managed to be more observant and prescient than, say, anyone who has ever worked for The New Republic. Peter Beinart, for instance, a Professional Thinker and Opiner on All Things Important, helped sell a war that through the predictable use of depleted uranium munitions has left thousands of Iraqis stricken with cancer. Adam Yauch, by contrast, give us Paul’s Boutique and as an added bonus used his celebrity status to sell a war-loving public on the virtues of nonviolence. Life being fair and all, it was Yauch who died at the age of 47. From cancer.
But rather than dwell on that, music: