Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, A Prolific Pop Genius Gone Too Soon

Apr 2, 2020

Yesterday was a tough day. I lost a cousin to cancer, and I had just gotten off the phone telling the kids when I got the news alert – Adam Schlesinger, prolific pop genius, and only 52, had passed away due to COVID-19 complications.

Suddenly, all of the inconveniences of quarantines and worry about far-away family seemed so small and unimportant. One of our childhood heroes had been silenced forever. This moment made the threat of this virus intensely personal, hit too close to home.

Our girls were very small in the 90s, and like many music-obsessed parents of our generation, we raised our kids to have a deep appreciation for the finer things in life –namely, finely crafted songs of about 3 minutes with tight hooks and earworm lyrics - you know, as Tom Hanks put it in “That Thing You Do” - something snappy.  We danced through those days to “Radiation Vibe” and “Red Dragon Tattoo,” not to mention the soundtrack for “Josie and the Pussycats.” Life was good.

Fast forward to their high school years, and I got to be the cool mom who made sure our daughter Gracie had all the Fountains of Wayne albums before her friends. There was nothing better than sitting in the football stands behind her on Friday nights when her band broke into “Stacey’s Mom” and I would hear her telling her friends that Fountains of Wayne may have just won the Grammy for Best New Artist, but she had loved their music for years.

As Music Director at WDIY, I have also had the distinct pleasure of sharing Adam’s brilliant music with our listeners over the years – Fountains of Wayne, Ivy, Tinted Windows… it seems anything he wrote found its way onto the airwaves and into our hearts. 

“Girl I Can’t Forget” was an unofficial theme song for "The Blend" for a while, featured on the promo for the show. German car? Irish bar? I have to say, that song so closely mirrored how my sister and her husband got together, that had I ever had the chance to meet Adam Schlesinger in person, I had always planned to ask him if he had somehow found her diary at a thrift store. While I never got that chance, we did thoroughly enjoy their shows at Sellersville Theater over the years. Adam’s band mate Chris Collingwood grew up in the area, and so those shows always felt more like a family barbecue than a typical rock show.

When I heard he had turned his hand to writing music for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” I thought, man, is there anything this guy can’t do? Of course, I had to watch, and it was so good. To call him brilliant seems to fall short of the impact he has made on music and our world forever.

It feels so tragic to lose that kind of talent in such a way, and it conjures up the fears we are all trying to suppress that this may be just the beginning of a very painful culling of our artists across the board.

Tonight, we miss the man who gave our collective experience the perfect turn of phrase. In the face of this loss, we have no words.

“Sitting there watching time fly past you, why do tomorrow what you could never do.”

On behalf of the programming team here at WDIY, we extend our deepest sympathies to Adam’s family, friends and fans.

Kate Riess, Music Director