Adam Schlesinger, co-founder of the New Jersey power-pop group Fountains of Wayne and Emmy- and Grammy-winning songwriter for film, television, and theater, died Wednesday from complications related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). He was 52.
Schelsinger’s lawyer, Josh Grier, confirmed the musician’s death.
Schlesinger was hospitalized in March and tested positive for the coronavirus. At the time, he was placed on a ventilator, which left him heavily sedated.
At the time of his death, Schlesinger was writing the music for the upcoming musical version of “The Nanny” with his “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” collaborator Rachel Bloom.
“Devastated,” wrote Nanny star Fran Drescher.
Schlesinger had one of the most unique and busiest careers in pop. With Fountains of Wayne, a group that blended power-pop delight with indie and alt-rock sensibilities, he released five albums between 1996 and 2011. During the same period, he released six albums with his other group, Ivy, all the while building a portfolio of TV and film music.
His first hit came in 1996, but it was a song engineered to sound like it was actually from the Sixties: “That Thing You Do.” The track served as the sole hit for the Wonders, the fake band at the center of Tom Hanks’ film “That Thing You Do!”
In real life, the track charted well and earned Schlesinger an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. Seven years later, Schlesinger and Fountains of Wayne would notch their own career-defining hit, “Stacy’s Mom.”
In a 2016 interview with Consequence of Sound, Schlesinger spoke about the parallels between his fictional hit and his real life one.
“People all of a sudden know you for this one song,” he said. “It just follows you around, and you have to play it over and over again. It comes to define you, but you have to find a way to stay fresh with it and enthusiastic about it. It’s a weird thing. … It’s a happy problem to have, really. Before That Thing You Do, I hadn’t written anything that anybody knew. Then I had one thing that people knew, and then a few years on I had a couple other songs that people knew. When you’re just starting out and you want to be a songwriter, you want to be able to mention something that people have heard of,” Schlesinger said.
Schlesinger was born October 31, 1967, and grew up in Manhattan before his family moved to New Jersey. While at Williams College in Massachusetts, he met Chris Collingwood and the pair formed Fountains of Wayne named after a New Jersey lawn ornament store.
A demo earned them a deal with Atlantic Records, and in 1996 they released their self-titled debut that earned critical praise and spawned a minor alt-rock hit, “Radiation Vibe.” Their follow-up, 1999’s Utopia Parkway, was also well received by critics, though it ultimately struggled commercially and Atlantic dropped the band.
It would take four years for Fountains of Wayne to release their next album, but 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers would be the most successful of their career.
“Stacy’s Mom” was a ubiquitous power-pop cut reminiscent of the Cars and Rick Springfield, while doubling as a “Mrs. Robinson” update for the American Pie-era. The track peaked at Number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, while its video—which starred model Rachel Hunter and featured various references to the Cars and the Eighties teen comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High—earned heavy rotation on MTV.