Friends, colleagues, superstars and statesmen all come together to share memories, express sorrow over the passing of a most beloved American pop auteur
When you see public condolences from Jon Bon Jovi, Tom Hanks and the Governor of New Jersey all within the span of 24 hours, you know we lost a real one. But that was Adam Schlesinger for ya.
In a week already hemorrhaging with COVID-19 related deaths across the country, the music world has been hit particularly hard in the last couple of days with the passings of such renowned figures as avant-disco queen Cristina, jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis, Jr., the incomparable Alan Merrill, trumpet great Wallace Roney and 90s country favorite Joe Diffie.
Yet it’s the unexpected loss master songwriter Schlesinger that has been felt the most substantially on the Internet when news of his passing from COVID-19 complications was officially made public. Schlesinger, who rose to fame in the mid-90s as a key member of not one but two brilliant alternative pop groups in Fountains of Wayne and Ivy, would soon see his cult following grow exponentially upon his work beyond both bands. In addition to his essential contributions to film and television as the composer for the music behind such projects as That Thing You Do!, Shallow Hal, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Music & Lyrics, The CW hit series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I Love You America (Hulu), The Maya Rudolph Show (NBC), A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!, the 2011 and 2012 Tony Awards, the 2011 and 2013 Emmy Awards, Big Time Rush, T.U.F.F. Puppy (Nickelodeon), Good Luck Charlie (Disney Channel), Fresh Beat Band (Nickelodeon), Kathy (Bravo), Crank Yankers, the Billboard Music Awards, Bubble Guppies (Nick Jr.), The Howard Stern Show, Sesame Street, Comedy Central’s “Night of Too Many Stars”, Robert Smigel’s cartoons for Saturday Night Live, The Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade with Neil Patrick Harris, the Comedy Awards (Comedy Central) and others. Adam had also seen his songs featured in such a wide, wide array of big and small screen projects including Scrubs, The Hills, Gossip Girl, Melrose Place, Felicity, Robots, There’s Something About Mary, Me, Myself & Irene, Josie and the Pussycats, Scary Movie, Art School Confidential, Fever Pitch, The Manchurian Candidate, Because of Winn-Dixie, Orange County, Two Weeks Notice and Just Friends among many others.
Adam also wrote songs for an astonishing array of other artists as well, from America to Kathy Griffin to the Jonas Brothers to The Monkees to Sarah Silverman, who he had been collaborating with on a musical adaptation of her book The Bedwetter, previews of which were set to begin on May 9, 2020, at the Atlantic’s Linda Gross Theater with opening night was scheduled for Wednesday, June 10, 2020.
So the outpouring of support and sorrow from all corners of public life was truly expected. But it doesn’t make this loss any easier to digest.
For this Long Island boy now nestled in the mountains of Passaic County, NJ, the songwriting of Adam Schlesinger spoke to me in the same sense I fell in love with the music of Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen and The Wrens. Adam had this uncanny ability to shine his pen light on the very nooks and crannies of the New York Tri-State Area, be it the very act of naming your main band after a beloved and woebegone lawn store on Route 46 in Wayne, NJ or painting these pictures with his words that might immediately remind you of a favorite local diner or shopping mall. The guy even made the very act of sitting in traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge a singalong anthem.
It’s not easy losing someone who was otherwise so healthy and vibrant and busy before this horrible virus took him away from us. COVID-19’s death march through our record collection certainly will not stop at Adam Schlesinger, as the announcement of New Orleans jazz patriarch’s Coronavirus-related passing hit the wire mere hours after we learned of Adam.
Today, the Rock & Roll Globe shares in the world’s collective therondy to a funny, brilliant and immensely talented mind and a wonderful man who made some of the best pop music any of us have ever had the privilege to absorb.
VIDEO: Conan O’Brien pays homage to Adam Schlesinger