„You don’t know what you’ve got ‚till it’s gone!”
I had to think of this line from the song „Big Yellow Taxi“ by singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell when I heard about Adam Schlesinger’s untimely demise: „Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.“
When Mitchell’s song came out, Adam Schlesinger was only two years old. He probably heard the song for the first time somewhere in Manhattan, New York or Montclair, New Jersey, where he was raised. He too was to become an important songwriter.
In 1997 Schlesinger received an Oscar nomination for his song „That Thing You Do“, which he composed for the comedy of the same name by Tom Hanks. When Hanks heard about Schlesinger’s death, he said he was „terribly sad today“.
In 2003 Schlesinger received two Grammy nominations for the band „Fountains of Wayne“, in which he played the E-bass and wrote the most successful song of the group together with Chris Collingwood: „Stacy’s Mom“. In 2009 he received the Grammy in the category Best Comedy Album for „A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!“
He caused a sensation when he composed the opening number „It’s Not Just for Gays Anymore“ for the 65th presentation of the Tony Award. That evening it was performed by Neil Patrick Harris and became a hit on YouTube, where it was seen by millions in a short time. The song satirizes the genre musical in a wonderfully self-ironic way.
Schlesinger himself took part in many musicals and received two Tony nominations for the musical „Cry-Baby“. Before his death he was working on the musical „The Bedwetter“ based on the autobiography of comedian Sarah Silverman. When Silverman learned of his death, she summarized: „Adam was an amazing songwriter and composer, and one of the funniest people I know. His songs are funny and often – despite himself – surprisingly warm.“
In 2019, after having been nominated several times years before, he received an Emmy Award for the song „Antidepressants Are So Not a Big Deal“ from the TV musical series „Crazy Ex-Girlfriend“ with Rachel Bloom. Adam Schlesinger also worked on a musical based on the successful series „The Nanny“ with Fran Drescher.
Sarah Silverman, Fran Drescher and Rachel Bloom saw in Adam Schlesinger the best artistic partner in musically capturing all those things about which they related in such a refreshingly comedic way.
Schlesinger had an enormous musical sense of humor. Whether in major or minor key, each of his songs was imbued with a twinkling love for people and their weaknesses. He knew how to encourage those who heard his songs, despite their doubts and fears. His song „Gettin‘ Bi“, for example, has become a song with which many young people publicly stand by their sexual orientation.
I too have been singing his songs loudly in my car for years, when I go on holiday to the Dutch coast with my wife. Especially the song „End of the Movie“, in which he participated, we sing especially loud. Upon his premature death I would like to present a few quotes:
„Because life is a gradual series of revelations that occur over a period of time. It’s not some carefully crafted story. It’s a mess, and we’re all gonna die. If you saw a movie that was like real life, you’d be like, „What the hell was that movie about? It was really all over the place.“ Life doesn’t make narrative sense!“
Life doesn’t make a narrative sense, but life makes sense if it makes the lives of so many other people happier. Adam Schlesinger has made my life funnier, richer and easier to endure and I realize that right now that he is gone.
„You don’t know what you have ‘till it’s gone.“
On 1 April 2020, Adam Schlesinger died at the age of 52 after being infected with the Covid-19. He leaves behind two daughters and the many people he made happier.
(Translation: William Wires)