Founding Beastie Boys member Adam "MCA" Yauch died Friday, May 4, according to published reports. The cause of death has not yet been revealed, but the musician and activist announced in 2009 that he was battling cancer. He was 47.
Yauch was born in Brooklyn, New York on August 5, 1964, and was an only child.
As a teenager, Yauch taught himself how to play the bass guitar. By 1978, at the age of 14, Yauch started a hard-core punk band called the Young Aborigines with three friends, including Michael "Mike D" Diamond. They played their first show on August 5, 1981, Yauch's 17th birthday.
They changed their name to the Beastie Boys and by November 1982 released an EP, "Polly Wog Stew." By 1983, Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz joined the group, replacing original member, guitarist John Berry, who left to start another band.
During the Beastie Boys' acceptance speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in April of this year, Diamond said that it was at Yauch's parents home in Brooklyn that the group met after school each day to listen to albums from the Clash, Grandmaster Flash, and Run-D.M.C.
In 1983, the Beastie Boys recorded their first hip-hop song, "Cooky Puss," which is based on a lewd crank call they made to Carvel Ice Cream. The song was a success in underground dance clubs in New York, prompting the Beasties to begin performing more rap songs.
The group linked with NYU student Rick Rubin, who was starting Def Jam Recordings. In 1985, they released the 12 inch EP, "Rock Hard," and released their now-classic debut, "Licensed to Ill," the following year.
"Licensed to Ill" became the first rap album to reach No. 1 on Billboard's album chart and is also the top-selling rap album of the 1980s.
LL Cool J and Public Enemy frontman Chuck D paid homage to the Beastie Boys during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
LL Cool J said it was the Beastie Boys who helped him get signed to Def Jam. "If it wasn't for the Beastie Boys I wouldn't have my career because they actually played my demo for Rick Rubin in the NYU dormitory and that's how I got my break," he said.
Chuck D said the Beasties invited Public Enemy on tour in 1987. The rapper said he is teary-eyed about Yauch's death. "They were essential to our beginning, middle and today," he said in a statement released to Yahoo! Music. "Adam especially was unbelievable in our support from then 'til now."
While the Beasties continued to thrive artistically with their subsequent releases, Yauch also became known as an activist for Tibetan human rights. The Beasties donated to the Milarepa Fund proceeds from concerts and royalties from their fourth album, "Ill Communication."
In 1996, Yauch held his first Tibetan Freedom Concert festival which drew 100,000 people to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The festival also traveled to New York, Washington D.C., Amsterdam, Sydney, Tokyo, and Taipei through 2003.
It was also through his activist work that Yauch met his wife, Dechen Wangdu. In 1995, Yauch and Wangdu, met at Harvard University while attending a speech by the Dalai Lama. Both were in attendance in support of Tibet. They were married in May 1998 and had a daughter, Tenzin Losel, later that year. Yauch described his wife and daughter as his soul mates in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech letter read at the ceremony.
In addition to his musical and philanthropic interests, Yauch was also a filmmaker. He directed many Beastie Boys videos under the alias Nathanial Hörnblowér. The Irish character's last credit was the Beastie Boys' "Make Some Noise," which featured actors Danny McBride, Seth Rogen and Elijah Wood portraying the group.
More on this story as it develops.
- Yauch sits out Hall of Fame ceremony
- Yauch leaves behind movie legacy
- Beasties' Mike D curates art festival