Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch dies of cancer, aged 47

In the rap genre dominated by African American acts, the Beasties stood out for their ethnicity - 3 white Jewish kids from Brooklyn.

May 5, 2012 01:34
2 minute read.
Beastie Boys

Beastie Boys 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files )


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Adam Yauch, a founding member of pioneering hip-hop group the Beastie Boys who captivated fans with their brash style in early hits like "Fight for Your Right (To Party)", died on Friday after a long battle with cancer. He was 47.

"It is with great sadness that we confirm that musician, rapper, activist and director Adam "MCA" Yauch, founding member of Beastie Boys... passed away in his native New York City this morning after a near-three-year battle with cancer," said a statement posted on the band's website.

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In July 2009, Yauch disclosed that he had been diagnosed with a tumor in his left salivary gland and lymph node, and he later underwent surgery and sought medical treatment in Tibet, among places. In October of that year, he said he was "feeling healthy, strong and hopeful" that he had beaten the disease.

But as recently as last month, it was apparent the Beastie Boys' bassist was very ill as he was forced to miss his group's introduction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Yauch, who went by the stage name MCA, founded the Beastie Boys with his two friends, Michael Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Adrock). In the rap genre that was dominated by African American acts, the Beasties stood out for their ethnicity - three white Jewish kids from Brooklyn, New York.

They formed initially as a punk-rock band following that 1970s music movement, but soon switched to rap as it gained prominence on the street and in underground clubs in the early 1980s. Their breakout album was 1986's "Licensed to Ill," which featured the hit "Fight for Your Right (To Party)."

The Beasties would go on to sell over 40 million records, release four No. 1 albums and win three Grammys.

Longtime associate and friend Russell Simmons, a co-founder of Def Jam Records, the label that first signed the Beasties to a record deal, posted a message on his website saying "Adam was incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist, who I loved dearly. I was always inspired by his work. He will be missed by all of us."

Under the alias of Nathanial Hörnblowér, Yauch also directed iconic Beastie Boys videos including "So Whatcha Want," "Intergalactic," "Body Movin" and "Ch-Check It Out."

While the Beasties remained active in music over the years, Yauch went on to found independent film company Oscilloscope Laboratories which makes and distributes low-budget, art-house fare. It recently released the drama "We Need to Talk About Kevin."

Outside music and film, Yauch founded the Milarepa Foundation, which raised money for post-Sept. 11 disaster relief and other causes.

Yauch is survived by his wife Dechen and his daughter Tenzin Losel, as well as his parents Frances and Noel Yauch.

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