Beastie Boys co-founder Adam "MCA" Yauch died Friday morning (May 4th) in New York City at the age of 47 after a three-year battle with salivary gland cancer. In addition to his trailblazing work with the hip-hop trio, Yauch was also a founder of the Milarepa Foundation, which produced the Tibetan Freedom Concerts, and Oscilloscope Laboratories, an independent film production and distribution company that released a number of acclaimed independent and foreign movies, including the Oscar-nominated The Messenger and Exit Through The Gift Shop.
Yauch is survived by his wife Dechen and his daughter Tenzin Losel, as well as his parents Frances and Noel Yauch.
Born in Brooklyn, New York on August 5th, 1964, Yauch taught himself to play bass in high school. He formed a band at his 17th birthday party, called the Beastie Boys, which started out as a hardcore punk four-piece.
With fellow co-founder Mike "Mike D" Diamond and later recruit Adam "King Ad-Rock" Horovitz, the Beasties morphed into a rap trio and landed an underground hit in "Cooky Puss."
The trio hired NYU student Rick Rubin as a DJ for their live shows, and Rubin soon expressed an interest in producing the group for his new label, Def Jam Recordings. After issuing several more singles, the Beasties released their debut album, Licensed To Ill, in 1986.
Licensed To Ill, bolstered by the anthemic smash "Fight For Your Right (To Party)," became the first rap album to ever top the Billboard album chart and the best-selling hip-hop record of the '80s.
Three more of the Beasties' albums -- 1994's Ill Communication, 1998's Hello Nasty and 2004's To The 5 Boroughs -- would all debut at Number One, with the band going on to sell more than 40 million records, win three Grammy Awards and get the MTV Video Vanguard Lifetime Achievement award.
Under the name Nathaniel Hornblower, Yauch directed a number of the Beasties' best-known and most pioneering videos, including "So Whatcha Want," "Intergalactic," "Body Movin" and "Ch-Check It Out." His last directorial effort, under his own name, was "Fight For Your Right Revisited," an extended video for the song "Make Some Noise."
Yauch announced in July 2009 that he had been diagnosed with cancer, forcing the cancellation of the band's tour plans and the delay of the release of a new album, Hot Sauce Committee Part 1. At the time he was optimistic about his prognosis:"The good news is that that it is, they did scans on my whole body and it's only localized in this one area, and it's not in a place that affects my voice, so that's nice. So anyway, it's a bit of a, a little bit of a setback, but this is something that's very treatable and in most cases, they're able to completely get rid of it and people don't have continuing problems with it. And they've caught it early and it's not anywhere else in my body, so that's the good news."
The trio eventually issued Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 in May 2011, although they never performed live again and Yauch's public appearances were few.
The Beastie Boys were inducted last month into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with the event made bittersweet by Yauch's absence. Diamond and Horovitz reading an acceptance speech on behalf of their bandmate and friend. Horovitz told us last year that the band was thrilled to still be in business after 25 years: "I wasn't planning on any of this. You know, Beastie Boys started when we were literally 14-year-olds, like we were little people. Like, I always knew that I'd be friends with Adam and Mike, like it wasn't like -- I didn't think this would be a job or we'd make money. And then here we are, you know, all this time later, like drinking champagne and eating celery sticks. It's pretty good."
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