Beastie Boys Story: a Reflection

Although it released back in April of 2020, I only recently had the chance to watch Beastie Boys Story on Apple TV. A full viewing of the film evokes a panoply of emotional responses, at least for this 40-something longtime fan of the band. The most stirring moments come in the final third of the show, and I found myself reminded of the mindset I held when I wrote Infectious Delights a few weeks ago:

After digesting my viewing experience of Beastie Boys Story over several meditative workouts (I talk about those in this post): I felt moved to compose a reflective response to the themes I found most compelling from this film.

image source: Apple TV Press Release

Imagine you’ve purchased tickets to sit in an elegant old theater in the heart of downtown so that you can listen to some of your favorite musicians talk. They’re not going to perform any of their music and they’re really not even going to play their music for you at all. That’s the premise and the delivery of Beastie Boys Story.

I didn’t find myself very drawn in for the first few minutes of the show. It was, of course, missing my favorite member of the band. The one who was first to evolve. The one who pulled the group out of the douche-bro anthem muck of some of their earliest hits. And so, since the show was obviously missing Adam Yauch, I had a hard time engaging with Mike D and Adam Horovitz. I’ve never found them very relatable or likable, and that impression remained in the opening moments of the show.

They became a lot more relatable for me once they opened up and confessed remorse for the way they ditched the coolest early member of the group (Kate Schellenbach). While I found myself wishing they would have gone into greater detail about what they most appreciated about her friendship, I thought it was cool that they didn’t try to play their betrayal of her friendship as anything other than a shitty thing to do.

The show more or less progresses in chronological fashion with Mike D and Adam somewhat mechanically reading their lines from teleprompters as they reminisce about the history of the band. The times they screw up their lines and break character (so to speak) are the most relatable. This intensifies when it comes time to talk about the loss of their friend Adam Yauch.

They talked about the different types of friends you have. The party crazed fun to have around friend. The reliable help you move friend. We all know those friendship archetypes. Then they talked about Yauch. They characterized him as the unique kind of friend who inspires, energizes, and enables greatness that you didn’t think you had inside of you. The friend who makes you better and who makes you want to be better. While they didn’t say it in so many words, they essentially credited all that became good about their band and their music to their dearly departed friend Adam Yauch.

As Adam Horovitz struggled to blink away tears on stage, I found my own eyes welling up with emotion. It’s moving to see authentic grief in the eyes of a person missing their dear friend. But that wasn’t really why I got emotional at this part of the show. I felt an intense grief over past friendships that I’ve done poorly. As I watched the remaining members of The Beastie Boys mourn and celebrate their friend, I considered how many Kate Schellenbachs I have in my past. I wondered how many times I had missed an opportunity to be somebody’s Adam Yauch.

See, I don’t have a fraction of Yauch’s genius. Few do. But I am firmly convinced that I can be somebody’s Yauch. I’m firmly convinced that each of us can. Even in these COVID times where our in-person contacts are (or should be) extremely limited, we have many daily opportunities to inspire, elevate, energize, enable. We also often have opportunities to betray and abandon.

I’m no friendship guru. I don’t possess the secrets of how to exercise a Yauch-like influence in the lives of my friends. But I do pledge to try. And I pledge to keep my eyes and my heart open to spot the times my friends are being like Yauch for me. And to tell them about it. Because we need to see and name the beauty in our friends while they’re still around to enjoy our gratitude.

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