Word circulated late this afternoon that Adam Schlesinger, co-founder of the group Fountains of Wayne and composer of the music for TV’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, passed away at the age of 52. The cause of death was complications from the COVID-19 virus.
Schlesinger was nominated for Oscars and Tonys, and won Emmys and Grammys. The Grammy win actually came from his work with Stephen Colbert; the nominations he received for his work with Fountains of Wayne didn’t net awards. But the 2003 album Welcome Interstate Managers was a hit, as was “Stacy’s Mom,” which was a #21 hit with a memorable video featuring New Zealand model (and former wife of Rod Stewart) Rachel Hunter. (The song is also one of the newer tunes on my iPod at only 17 years old.)
But Schlesinger is also responsible for a song that I really loved. In 1997 he got an Oscar nomination for his work in creating the memorable title song that repeats throughout the film That Thing You Do, which starred Tom Hanks and Liv Tyler. I was working as the music director at WJMK/Chicago at the time, and I remember us having a discussion as to whether or not to give the song a spin. We compromised, in a sense: John Landecker played it once or twice on his morning show, and we didn’t break the time/space continuum the rest of the day. But I picked up the soundtrack album and kept it in rotation in the house for a while. (I didn’t manage a copy of the single on vinyl, which was available in limited release.) “That Thing You Do” was the only song on the album that Schlesinger wrote, but it was the only one you needed.
It was almost a hit. “That Thing You Do!” hit the Hot 100 on October 12, 1996 and peaked at #41 on the chart. Adult Contemporary radio gave it more airplay, placing it at #22. (In the movie, the song hit #2 in 1964, of course.)
You can hear “That Thing You Do” by clicking here.