Thursday, April 02, 2020

COVID-19 claims the life of Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger

When I learned of the death of Adam Schlesinger yesterday afternoon at the hands of COVID-19, I was too upset to immediately write anything (he reportedly passed away on Wednesday, April 1, 2020). Although I only caught his band Fountains of Wayne once in concert (you can read my glowing review of the band's January 2009 performance at The Coach House here), I have since explored most of the band's rich discography and have appreciated Schlesinger's top-tier skills as a songwriter and producer. Although he had already enjoyed a long and successful career (he was an Emmy and Grammy winner, and earned an Academy Award nomination for his “That Thing You Do!,” the title track to the 1996 Tom Hanks-directed film), he was only 52. He is survived by his two children, making his early death additionally heartbreaking.

Fountains of Wayne, from left, guitarist-singer Jody Porter, drummer Brian Young,
singer-guitarist Chris Collingwood and bassist-singer Adam Schlesinger.
Photo: Courtesy of Fountains of Wayne
As fine as the song "That Thing That You Do" and the 2003 FOW hit "Stacy's Mom" are, I really encourage music lovers to explore his other work with the New Jersey-spawned power-pop band and some of his work as an album producer (especially his role on the Monkees' 2016 wonderful comeback Good Times! and 2018's equally-stellar Christmas Party; he produced and wrote songs on both discs) and as a songwriter across television (Sesame Street, Big Time Rush, Crank Yankees and more).

The album artwork for 'Sky Full of Holes'
My favorite FOW album is the 2011 masterwork Sky Full of Holes. Almost every music fan has certain albums that connect with them in deep and intangible ways. As a life-long musician and music fan, I have many albums that connect with me that way to be sure. But I count Sky Full of Holes with its perfect blend of melody and melancholy, shimmering song craft and emotional punch as a perfect album. But that is not the band's only great album; the band's self-titled 1996 LP, 1999's concept album Utopia Parkway, 2003's Welcome Interstate Managers and 2007's Traffic and Weather are all outstanding and sound as great today as on their respective release dates.

John Brodeur of Bird Streets wrote on Twitter on April 1: "I am in shock. Devastated. Adam was a good and generous friend. We had planned to write together before this all started. It meant so much to me that he was interested. I hoped and prayed he would beat this, and I want badly for it to not be true."

From left, the Monkees' Peter Tonk and Micky Dolenz with
Adam Schlesinger. Photo: Rhino Records
John Hughes, Rhino Records' Senior Vice President of Fan Engagement wrote: "Adam Schlesinger's kindness and blazing talent were unmistakable. I will miss my friend, and the world will miss his musical spark."

“There would be no Playtone without Adam Schlesinger, without his That Thing You Do!” Tom Hanks wrote following the death of the artist. Hanks also was stricked by the coronavirus last month. “He was a One-der. Lost him to Covid-19. Terribly sad today.”

Robert Kinsler

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