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Adam Yauch, Brooklyn-born co-founder of Beastie Boys, dies at 47

By Eric Goldschein
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Adam “MCA” Yauch, one of the founding members of legendary Brooklyn hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, died May 4, 2012, of complications from cancer. He was 47 years old.

Yauch was born on Aug. 5, 1964, in Brooklyn to parents Frances and Noel Yauch. He learned bass guitar and formed a band with friends, including future Beastie Boys bandmate Michael Diamond, while attending Edward R. Murrow High School. He also attended Bard College for two years before focusing full-time on making music with Diamond (“Mike D”) and Adam Horovitz (“Ad-Rock”).

The Beastie Boys, starting as a hardcore punk band in 1979, moved towards experimenting with hip-hop and released their debut album Licensed to Ill in 1986. The album was a groundbreaking combination of rap, punk and rock, and became the first hip-hop album to chart number one on the Billboard 200. It has since sold 9 million copies.

The Beastie Boys' status as the premier white hip-hop group on the scene was cemented throughout the next two decades, as Yauch and his bandmates continued putting out double- and triple-platinum-selling albums like 1989’s Paul’s Boutique and 1994’s Ill Communication. To date, the Beastie Boys have sold over 40 million albums worldwide, and are still considered one of the most influential and respected acts in music today.

Yauch’s interests stretched beyond making music. Under the alias Nathanial Hörnblowér, Yauch directed the group’s music videos, concert films, and the documentary Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot, a film about high school basketball players. He was also heavily involved in the “Free Tibet” movement, and ran his own NYC recording studio and film production company called Oscilloscope Laboratories.

One of the Beastie Boys' iconic Yauch-directed videos.

All the while, the Beastie Boys continued putting out hit records and Grammy-winning singles, notably “Sabotage” and “Intergalatic.” The group most recently released Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2 in 2009, which was delayed after Yauch first announced a cancerous tumor in his salivary gland on July 20, 2009.

Yauch underwent surgery and radiation treatment to fight the disease, which prevented him from appearing in music videos, or with Ad-Rock and Mike D when the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2012.

Yauch’s condition reportedly deteriorated quickly over the last few weeks while undergoing chemotherapy. He died in his native New York City, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, around 9 a.m.

With his death, the music world lost one of its favorite sons; the Jewish community lost one of its most successful talents; and Brooklyn lost one of the men who made “No Sleep till Brooklyn,” a head-bopping rallying cry for young Brooklynites everywhere.

Yauch leaves behind his wife, Dechen Wangdu, and daughter, Tenzin Losel Yauch.

May 4, 2012 - 4:49pm


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