Jeremy DuQuesnay Adams didn't live a life in music, but for the world at large it will be the thing he'll always be remembered for. Adams, a longtime professor at SMU, was a brilliant scholar who dedicate his life to education and writing. But in 1968, he became a part of music history when he was immortalized as the inspiration for a major character in the Beatles' animated film, Yellow Submarine.
On Monday, Adams passed away at the age of 82. The news has been confirmed by SMU. "He passed away yesterday," Mary Jane Johnson, a representative from the president's office, confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
The character that Adams inspired in Yellow Submarine was named Jeremy Hillary Boob. Adams was involved because of his bizarre name.
“What parents do to kids is awful,” Adams said in an interview with the Observer in June, 2015. Back in the '60s, he was going by Jeremy Y. du Q. Adams, which his friend Erich Segal, who invented the character, loved. The character’s name was originally Jeremy Y. du Boob before being changed to Jeremy Hillary Boob.
Boob first shows up in the film during “Nowhere Man,” a song with a serious reference to workers in rustbelt towns like Manchester. But this character was reimagined for Yellow Submarine and intended as a parody of public intellectuals and polymaths. This made Adams a perfect choice for inspiration.
Adams was a professor of history specializing in Medieval Europe. He also wrote books at a furious pace, which is why Jeremy Hillary Boob is using his feet to write “footnotes” for his 19th book in the film. Ringo Starr feels sorry for Boob and invites him to join the Beatles in the submarine.
Segal gave Adams’ character fitting Latin tag lines like “Ad hoc, ad loc and quid pro quo. So little time—so much to know!” “I don’t think I went around saying that,” Adams said. “I hope not. Maybe I did.”
Adams was studying at Harvard in the '60s when he met Segal, who was working on the screenplay for Yellow Submarine. “He’s listed as the fourth screenwriter,” Adams recalled last year. “But I saw him do 90-something percent of it.” Segal went on to write enormously popular novels and screenplays like Love Story, which was both a bestseller and a widely popular film, before passing away in 2010.
But at that time, Segal had been recruited for Yellow Submarine because he was famous for being a classicist, adapting European theater into American scripts. Adams also remembered Segal working with Heinz Edelmann, the German illustrator who did the art direction and character design for the film. In Adams’ home, there is a piece of collage art signed by Edelmann.
Last summer, Adams was kind enough to sit down with us for an interview in his museum-like home near SMU. He even tried on one of several Yellow Submarine-themed ties he bought in London countless years ago. Adams also showed us his “Yellow Submarine Room,” an entire room painted yellow and packed full of memorabilia based on the film. It would stick out in any home, but Adams’ house is full of artwork and furniture that represent hundreds of years.
Adams remembered the film as representative of a certain 1960s sentiment, when people really believed that love is all you need. Sadly, Adams had just renewed his vows the day before his death with his wife since 1975, Dr. Bonnie Wheeler, an accomplished intellectual in her own right.