In the wake this week of the tragic death from cancer of Beastie Boys co-founder Adam Yauch, I heard a radio talk show host opine on the future of the group’s two remaining members saying, in not so many words: ‘I don’t see how they can go on recording or performing without him.’ The broadcaster went on to compare the situation to the band Journey, who continues to perform live without Steve Perry, much, the broadcaster said, to his chagrin.
Is that fair? I would argue it is not. On the other hand, there are precedents. The Doors were no longer relevant without Jim Morrison. The same could be said of Mamas and the Papas without Mama Cass or INXS with the loss of Michael Hutchence.
What is really important here is the group’s “essence” or core. It will be compromised but not irrevocably. Journey carries on without Steve Perry because of the group’s founder and creative mastermind, Neal Schon, who started it all with original lead singer Greg Rolie. The Who continued successfully on after the death of drummer Keith Moon (and later John Entwistle) because Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry remained at the group’s epicenter. Even Queen, without the mercurial Freddy Mercury, has succeeded with what are essentially tribute concerts, led by Brian May and the strength of the group’s music.
The Beasties were a true amalgamation of three creative geniuses who merged rock and rap and made it more accessible to the masses. With ample time to heal, I have no doubt that Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz will continue their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legacy – both as a tribute to their fallen comrade and as a reminder that rock ‘n roll (in this case married with rap), and those that create it, truly never die.