Last weekend I was buying eight pairs of underwear at an American Eagle outlet in Atlantic City when a song from the Counting Crows' 1994 album “August and Everything After” came on the store sound system. Immediately, I felt embarrassed for the band’s lead singer, Adam Duritz.
This is the dilemma of Adam Duritz. Something about him—the fact that his band was emo ten years before studies proved that teenage boys have emotions? The fact that he wears fake dreadlocks? The fact that he consistently seems to date stunningly attractive women?—makes people uncomfortable on his behalf. You can be shopping for underwear, in bulk, at the outlet version of a store catering to fourteen-year-olds, in a city for people who can’t handle the class and sophistication of Vegas, and yet you won’t be embarrassed until one of his songs—his hit songs!—starts playing. Even confessing this on the Internet makes me feel embarrassed not for myself, but for Adam Duritz. And I have no idea why.
Well, one idea. “August and Everything After” was hugely influential in 1994. Critics loved it; so did sensitive teenagers. And since a big chunk of those sensitive 90’s teenagers went on to become this decade’s indie rock snobs, the Counting Crows became a sort of gateway drug—the last mainstream band they ever liked. And therefore the most humiliating.
In this month’s Rolling Stone, Duritz makes it clear that he’s aware of his effect on people. "I do something that people really don't like," he tells the interviewer. Duritz talks about his mental illness, his love life (the media went crazy over his torrid affair with Jennifer Aniston, but he says he never even slept with her), and his music. He comes off hugely sympathetic, even in passages like this:
His dreadlocks — which he has always freely admitted are hair extensions — are fascinating up close. They're so incongruous with the rest of his appearance ("I'm a Russian Jew American, impersonating African," he sings on the Crows' new album) that you half expect them to begin moving, like a giant tarantula. Not long ago, Duritz's publicist urged him to shave his head, but he wouldn't do it. "Whatever they hide or cover about myself, you know, they feel good," he says. "And I did not want to be skinhead guy."
I think we can all agree that fake dreadlocks are a really bad idea. But how can you judge a guy who has security hair?
Izzy Grinspan is Jewcy's ex-managing editor. Her work has been published in Salon, The Believer, and The Village Voice.