COVID-19 No. 13: We Had All Kinds of Time

THIS WAS GOING TO BE another measured, thoughtful post on everyday life during the topsy-turvy times that COVID-19 has dumped on us.

And then I learned, via Twitter a few minutes ago, that Adam Schlesinger died today.

He was just 52, a mere year older than I, and was a cofounder of and songwriter for the unparalleled power pop band Fountains of Wayne. If you know Adam Schlesinger at all, it’s probably from his Oscar-nominated song “That Thing You Do,” from Tom Hanks’s charming film of the same name, and “Stacy’s Mom,” an impossibly catchy tune that still pops up on commercial radio, 17 years after its release.

And that’s a shame, a damn shame, because Schlesinger and Fountains of Wayne were so much more than that.

grayscale photo of cutaway acoustic guitar
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

“Stacy’s Mom” was a hit, possibly more for its subject than its musicianship, and, again, that’s a damn shame. The album on which it appears, Welcome Interstate Managers, is one of those rare just-about-perfect records, a front-to-back work of sparkling songwriting, exquisite harmonies, and joyfully jangly guitars.

I may be feeling overly sentimental because when R. was much younger, Fountains of Wayne was a staple of our singalongs. Even today, we can sing deeper cuts word-for-word, reveling in their sharp lyrics and disarming accessibility.

Yet FoW’s other stuff is similarly bouncy and thoughtful, much of it thanks to Schlesinger, who went on to win awards for his stage, TV, and film work, and was also part of the wonderfully ethereal band Ivy.

I don’t mourn celebrity passings, with exceptions that can be counted on one hand. There is too much tragedy among us regular folks to devote emotional bandwidth to the rich and famous. But there are those whose talent is snuffed far, far too soon, who deserve my sadness and regret.

Kirsty MacColl was one. Adam Schlesinger is another.

Many feel the same about the playwright Terrence McNally, felled by COVID-19 last week. The influential singer-songwriter John Prine is, as of now, in critically condition. We will lose more in the weeks and months to come, and that’s on top of loved ones, family, friends, and coworkers who will leave us much earlier they ought.

It didn’t have to be this way. It did not.

The bourbon sits inside me

Right now I’m a puppet in its sway

And it may be the whiskey talking

But the whiskey says I miss you every day | DL

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