BY: JOEY REAMS
When the Coronavirus pandemic began to worsen a year ago, people realized the severity of the situation when many people started to get sick, including some celebrities and musicians. Unfortunately for the music world, one of the first musicians to lose this battle was Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger, who passed away April 1, 2020, at 52.
“Thanks everyone for all your kind words of sympathy and support,” said Fountains of Wayne bandmate Chris Collingwood. “Answering everyone will take a long time. My thoughts are with Adam’s children and his parents, who treated me as one of their own.”
Mourning While We Can
Fountains of Wayne played their last concert on Oct. 19, 2013, but never officially announced their break-up. Instead, the band silently went their separate ways until, in 2016, everyone in the band was mentioning Fountains of Wayne in the past tense.
After Schlesinger’s death, the band’s remaining members decided to get back together on April 22, 2020, and host a one-time reunion charity concert that would benefit the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund. The virtual performance also featured Sharon Van Etten taking his place on bass guitar.
Schlesinger’s legacy would continue to shine a few months later when a tribute album, Saving for a Custom Van, was released in his memory. The album, which originated from the Fountains of Wayne song “Utopia Parkway,” consisted of 31 songs of songs written or performed by Schlesinger. It would also serve as a benefit album, where all proceeds would be donated to the MusiCares COVID-19 relief fund. Some of the artists featured on this posthumous album include Kay Hanley, Ben Lee, and Prince Daddy & The Hyena, as well as collaborator Rachel Bloom and bandmate Jody Porter.
Then that was the last we heard about Adam Schlesinger for a while. Unfortunately, the world had to continue to deal with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Countless more people have passed away from the same disease, forcing the mourning process to shorten during this time drastically. As a result, there was never an official tribute performance for him until now.
A Worthy Celebration of Life
Earlier this year, it was announced a tribute show for Schlesinger was in the works, organized by Porter. Adam Schlesinger, A Music Celebration, Virtual Show will take place May 5th at 8 p.m. EST and will benefit MusiCares and the Bowery Electric, the struggling Manhattan venue where the concert was filmed. Tickets are on sale now.
“This is a proper musical send-off for my soul brother with a bunch of talented and groovy guests that would make Adam wince,” Porter said.
The lineup includes a handful of individuals from well-known bands, including Courtney Love from Hole, Chris Carrabba from Dashboard Confessional, Mickey Dolenz from The Monkees, Sean Ono Lennon, James Iha from the Smashing Pumpkins, Patrick Carney of the Black Keys, and many more. You can check out the full lineup here:
Remembering Adam Schlesinger
Whether or not you attend this virtual performance, you can still appreciate the legacy Schlesinger left behind. Fountains of Wayne is not nearly the only achievement in Schlesinger’s life. It’s not even the only band he’s helped start. Schlesinger was also one half of the Brooklyn-based synth-pop duo Fever High, as well as in a side project called Tinted Windows, featuring musicians from The Smashing Pumpkins, A Perfect Circle, Hanson, and Cheap Trick.
When he wasn’t performing with these bands, he was busy writing songs for other bands. Some of his most well-known work performed by other artists include “Our Own World,” “I Was There,” and “House of Broken Gingerbread” by The Monkees, “Everybody Loves Music” by Nicki Minaj, “High School Never Ends” with Bowling for Soup, and “I Am What I Am” for the Jonas Brothers.
Outside of studio music, Schlesinger has been recognized in film, television, and theatre. He helped write and co-produce the title song to the 1996 film That Thing You Do! featuring Tom Hanks. Schlesinger also helped compose a song for Ice Age: Continental Drift, which Jennifer Lopez and Peter Dinklage performed. Other films Schlesinger’s music has been featured in Robots, There Something About Mary, Scary Movie, Fever Pitch, Orange County, and many more.
The same story goes for his television career, where dozens of shows have benefited from his work. A few of his most notable works in television include musical contributions for the 2011 and 2012 Tony Awards, the 2011 and 2013 Emmy Awards, the Billboard Music Awards, Big Time Rush, The Howard Stern Show, Saturday Night Live, Scrubs, Gossip Girl, and once again, many more.
Finally, Schlesinger made his way into the theatre industry, where he and The Daily Show’s executive producer David Javerbaum co-wrote the songs for the musical adaption of Cry-Baby. The two would write other pieces together, such as the closing song for Javerbaum’s play An Act of God. Finally, Schlesinger worked with Sarah Silverman on a musical titled The Bedwetter, based on her book with the same title. At the time of his death, it’s reported that Schlesinger was working on the music for the musical adaption of the TV series The Nanny.
All of this would lead to an incredible legacy filled with many nominations and awards. Schlesinger was first nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award in 1997 for his contributions to That Thing You Do! Next, he would receive a Grammy nomination in 2003 for “Best New Artists” and “Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal” for their hit song “Stacy’s Mom.”
After two Tony nominations, another Emmy nomination, and a Daytime Emmy nomination, Schlesinger finally won his first award in 2012 with an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Music And Lyrics” for his contribution on “It’s Not Just for Gays Anymore,” performed by Neil Patrick Harris at the opening of the 65th Tony Awards. Schlesinger would win another Emmy the following year for the same award, this time for “If I Had Time,” performed by Neil Patrick Harris at the closing of the 66th Tony Awards.
Schlesinger would receive three more Emmy nominations in 2016 and 2017 before winning his last Emmy for “Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics” for the song “Antidepressants Are So Not a Big Deal,” which appeared in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Although not many people realized the extent of his contributions to the world, Schlesinger will forever have an impact on the music community. To pay your respects and help benefit some great causes, check out the virtual tribute concert, starting at 8 p.m. EST on May 5.