Adam Yauch, one of the founding members of legendary hip-hop trio the Beastie Boys, died today (May 4) aged 47. Born in Brooklyn, Yauch was also known by his Beastie Boys stage name MCA. He announced that he was being treated for cancer in 2009 after a tumour was discovered in his salivary gland.
In 1979, Yauch co-founded the Beastie Boys with Mike “Mike D” Diamond, who he met at school, and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horowitz. After starting out as a punk group inspired by Black Flag, the trio soon began experimenting with hip-hop.
The release of their first full album ‘Licensed To Ill’ in 1986 broke them into the mainstrean by becoming the the first hip-hop album to top the Billboard album chart and featured the track ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)’. In total, the band released eight albums including ‘Paul’s Boutique’, ‘Check Your Head’ and ‘Ill Communication’.
The group’s last album, ‘Hot Sauce Committee Part Two’, was released last year. It was originally planned for release in 2009 but was delayed after Yauch’s diagnosis.
Yauch had an enduring passion for film. Working under a pseudonym Nathanial Hornblower, he directed many of the band’s music videos, including ‘So What’cha Want,’ ‘Intergalactic,’ and more recently ‘Make Some Noise.’ In 2002, he launched the film production company Oscilloscope Laboratories – a studio and distributor which he set up to put out his high-school basketball documentary ‘Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot’ but later put out films including Kelly Reichardt’s drama ‘Wendy and Lucy’ and street artist Banksy’s ‘Exit Through the Gift Shop’.
Alongside the Beastie Boys, Yauch was heavily involved in the free Tibet movement, co-organising the Tibetan Freedom Concerts in the late ’90s.
When Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame two weeks ago, Yauch was too ill to go.
At the ceremony, Ad-Rock and Mike D read a letter from Yauch: “I’d like to dedicate this to my brothers Adam and Mike,” he wrote. “They walked the globe with me. It’s also for anyone who has ever been touched by our band. This induction is as much ours as it is yours.”
Adam Yauch is survived by his wife, Dechen Wengdu, and their daughter Tenzin Losel.