Post #32 - Adam Schlesinger

I certainly didn't know Adam Schlesinger but like thousands of us who are/were fans of Fountains of Wayne, the brilliant rock group he formed with Chris Collingwood, I thought I did. That's how well he wrote. The reports were that he had the virus but was getting better, but the virus is especially cruel that way, and he died yesterday at 52 years old.

Most people know FOW's work through the Stacey's Mom video, and yeah, it is a great song, a typical Schlesinger earworm, but what made it work for me was, as it was with almost all his songs,  that when I listened to them, it felt as if he lived in my house on Long Island and later my apartment in the City.

I grew up a suburban kid. I hardly knew anyone who didn't at one point mow lawns, shovel walks or deliver newspapers to earn a couple of bucks a week, and yup, there were certain houses you didn't mind working for because the mom was pretty hot. Schlesinger caught it perfectly. He was the Bruce Springsteen of middle class suburbia

By far, my favorite album was "Utopia Parkway." Although it was named for a road that snakes through Queens, it is the best record I've heard about a kid growing up in suburbia. Loosely taking you through a school year, every song is written from the perspective of a slightly hapless, schlameelly guy, probably a senior in high school (he drives, to the city to get stoned and go to the Museum of Natural History ("Laser Show") who has a crush on the young woman who works at a local travel agency ("Denise"), gets a tattoo to impress a girl even though the process is terrifying ("Red Dragon Tattoo"), has a neighbor who does nothing but drink, hangs out at the mall ("The Valley of Malls"), gets drunk at the prom ("Prom Theme" - with the memorable opening,

"Here we are at last
The moment soon will pass
We'll go our separate ways
We'll vanish in the haze
We'll never be the same
We'll forget each other's names
We'll grow old and lose our hair
It's all downhill from there

But tonight we'll reach for the stars
We'll rent expensive cars
And dream our dreams
Of a perfect night
And we'll sing our prom theme"

all, to an incredibly lush melody,  and he lives for summer vacation where he can hang out with his latest crush ("The Senator's Daughter") and do nothing.

And like me, he moved to the city and had memorable dates ("The Night I Can't Remember With the Girl I Can't Forget)" before he found the woman he loved ("The Radio Bar"). Work life was the subject of two of two other albums, "Welcome Interstate Messengers," and "Traffic and Weather," which opens with the story of two lonely people who almost meet in a cab, but then she steals it from him and goes off on her own.

There were other records, even if not as consistent, to me, they were all a delight. FOW was one of the few groups where when an album was released I bought it. I didn't want to hear it first, I didn't need to read reviews. You just knew that five years later you'd still be singing along with it in the car.

When the group disbanded, he went on to oversee and write many of the brilliant musical numbers that made Crazy Ex-Girlfriend such a wonder, and again, his songs were from the perspective of insecure, slightly damaged souls who never seemed to be comfortable in their skins. This time, though, they were mostly from the perspective of a woman. Schlesinger was so gifted a writer that he could probably write a song from inside the mind of a junkyard dog and not only make it relatable but also leave you laughing out loud.

As I write this, there are thousands of people in hospitals across the country and indeed around the world, gasping for air, fearful that every breath they take is their last. Every single one of them hurts me in a way from which, if I survive this thing, I will never recover emotionally. As I do with every victim, I hope Schlesinger went peaceably, but especially him because in my imagination he was my brilliant, sardonic, wiseass, funny friend. The only comfort I get is that he left behind a body of work that at some point will have me smiling and singing again. He was that good.


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