The Fountains of Wayne co-founder died yesterday from coronavirus complications. Through his 52 years he frequently flourished, just outside the spotlight.
When you grow up in New Jersey, you get used to knowing you're striking distance from the center of the world and a punchline at the same time. At any given moment, wherever you are in the Garden State, you're never much more than a two-hour trip from New York City. It can be inspirational and even life-affirming, but also numbingly normal. You've got a story to tell, but outsiders figure Springsteen or Bon Jovi already told it a generation ago, and would rather just hear some Sopranos or Jersey Shore trivia. Your state's cities are thought of like suburbs, and its suburbs are pretty much the most suburban places on earth.
Adam Schlesinger, who died yesterday (Apr. 1), grew up in one of those suburbs. The singer-songwriter spent his formative years in a college town called Montclair, about a 45-minute train ride from the City. All things considered, it's not so bad. It has nice parks and brunch spots, an annual film festival, and a DIY music venue where bands like the Front Bottoms and Pinegrove cut their teeth. Stephen Colbert lives there when he's not holed up in the Ed Sullivan Theater. Ezra Koenig grew up one town over, before he took off for Columbia University and started Vampire Weekend. The town can have a transient mood, like it's just one stop en route to that emerald city on the horizon. The whole state can feel that way. Yet Schlesinger owned every bit of it; if that meant writing weirdly specific odes to Jersey towns on his band's breakthrough album, so be it.