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An Open Letter to the VMAs

May 26th, 2012

Dear VMAs,

In the past four months, music has lost the following legends: Whitney Houston, Jim Marshall (Marshall amps), Levon Helm (The Band), Adam Yauch (Beastie Boys), Dick Dunn (Booker T. and The MG’s), Donna Summer, and Robin Gibb (Bee Gees).

Of the aforementioned, Houston and Yauch’s work directly impacted the MTV-generation.


(above: In exchange for giving MTV a classic VMA "moment," fans of Adam Yauch now deserve one.)

Houston brought vocal talent to pop music and Yauch—although his uncle Nathanial Hörnblowér may take credit—directed and starred in some of the most memorable videos ever seen on MTV. Just last year he won a Moonman for “Best Director.”

Since Houston and Yauch helped put MTV on the map—or at least in millions of cable systems throughout the world—their tributes at the upcoming VMA’s (Sept. 6) best befit their groundbreaking accomplishments.

If producers are thinking of dressing up a young starlet in an evening gown and giving her the impossible task of singing Houston’s rendition of “I Will Always Love You” note for note—please note—it’s already been done.

Houston was more than a balladeer and didn’t always dress like a diva. When she sang the “Star Spangled Banner”—with our country at war—before Super Bowl XXV, Houston soulfully delivered what would become the gold standard of National anthems…in a baggy tracksuit.

Remember, tributes don’t always have to be somber.

At this year’s VMA’s, could we possibly my hear my favorite Houston song, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody;” one of her later hits, “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay;” or any of the other hit songs off the Bodyguard soundtrack?

Onto the Beastie Boys...

I will be watching this year’s VMAs with a brick in hand, ready to toss it through my TV if I have to hear another rendition “Fight For Your Right To Party,” a song that was written as a goof, hasn’t been performed live by its creators in well over two decades, and was self-mocked in the video “Make Some Noise.”

(In the wake of Yauch’s death I was fine with bands covering this track—‘cause c’mon, on moment’s notice it’s probably the easiest B-Boys’ song to sing—but I expect more from a proper awards show memorial.)

And since it was already done at MTV’s 20th Anniversary, as well as on VH1’s Hip-Hop Honors in 2009, fans are not crossing their fingers for a redux tribute of “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.”


(above: A fitting tribute would include keeping the focus on the music & not accidentally parodying the Beastie Boys.)

If the VMAs truly want to pay homage to the Beastie Boys here’s where to begin:

Brainstorm with Beastie Boys: Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz. Their input supersedes all.

If Diamond and Horovitz were willing to perform, every past and future VMA moment would be inconsequential. I don’t’ see it happening though, since it’s probably too soon to do something so emotional, and like they and the Three Musketeers once said: All for one and one for all.

Involve auxiliary and former band-members: Mixmaster Mike, Money Mark, Alredo Ortiz, Amery Smith, Eric Bobo, Hurricane, or Kate Schellenbach.

Beastie odes of the past—including the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction—unintentional or not, always feel like they’re parodying the Beasties’ trendsetting attire. Save the tracksuits for the Whitney Houston tribute.

Fans would respect a performance put on by Beastie peers: Run & DMC, Public Enemy, Biz Markie, LL Cool J, A Tribe Called Quest, Cypress Hill, Rage Against The Machine, Luscious Jackson, or Rancid (members of this band actually performed at Yauch’s wedding).

When the Beastie Boys performed on the VMA’s in 1994 and 1998 their stage sets were simple and audience members weren’t brandishing garish props. Keep the focus on the music.

Because the Beastie Boys have a wealth of instrumental material, it might make sense for a live band to jam out while showing images from Yauch’s video catalog.

Include a live performance from a song off of last year’s Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2, something fans were never able to experience.

To eliminate preconceived expectations, have a group of lesser-known or unknown talent perform.

Or come to my apartment and watch me on a daily basis, screaming Beastie Boys' songs into a basketball pump, a flashlight, or any other household object that resembles a microphone. When you witness the love, you’ll then know why I’ll be holding a brick in my other hand.


Jim Shearer, Beastie Boys Fan