When the news of the passing of Adam “MCA” Yauch was confirmed by all the major outlets, fans of the Beastie Boys were shocked into the reality that music legends will not live forever. Taking for granted that our favorite artists and musicians will live on by way of their creations, it is easy to disregard their mortality.
Along with that staggering news, this week the Washington Post reported that the “Godfather of Go-Go,” Chuck Brown, has been hospitalized with a two-month pneumonia illness, and we were reminded that many formidable musical icons were suddenly human. These instances serve as painful reminders that that life is fragile.
For any Washington DC native, becoming a fan of the Funk subgenre of Go-Go music was nearly a rite of passage. When Brown's seminal hit “Bustin' Loose” hit the airwaves in 1978, none could fathom that Chuck would rise to the status he enjoys today. Some years later after Chuck refined his Go-Go sound to a level still unmatched, many had already viewed this man as a living legend. A slightly built, raspy-voiced man, one would never know that “Chuck Baby” is in his mid-70s, even with his slow gait. As he battles his illness and as his daughter (and band member) KK Brown has urged of his fans, legion of supporters are praying and hopeful that they'll get to hear “Wind Me Up Chuck” once again.
I had the pleasure of meeting Adam “MCA” Yauch when I was a writer and campaign worker for Music For America, a group that focused on getting youth voters politically astute and aware. This was shortly after the Beastie Boys released their sixth studio album, To The 5 Boroughs, and I was backstage with the guys and their families. It was an epic moment because I was sitting next to men that I valued as rap legends. I owned every LP up to that point and not once did we discuss music. MCA talked mostly about his politics, getting older and how being vegan was reshaping his life and the like. Whatever has ever been said positively about MCA, it was all true with this encounter.
It is a selfish thing to expect our favorites to simply exist to enrich our lives artistically. Like many others, I expected to see the Beasties in their 60s along with other early Def Jam artists rocking out as grandpas and running down all their hits. The same can and should be said for Chuck Brown, because without his signature baritone voice, Go-Go music would simply not be the same. As fans, we all owe a debt to continually appreciate these artists while they're alive and receptive to the adoration. Nothing else will do.
Rest In Peace, MCA. Get better, Chuck Brown.
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Photo: Jay Westcott