Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys died Friday after a three-year battle with cancer, RollingStone.com is reporting. He was 47.
Yauch, known as MCA, was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 after doctors discovered a tumor in his salivary gland. He co-founded the Beastie Boys in 1981 with Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) and Mike Diamond (Mike D.), a friend from a previous incarnation of the group that began in 1979. The trio last month was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though Yauch did not attend the induction ceremony in Cleveland.
The Beastie Boys started as a hardcore punk band with Yauch on bass, releasing a handful of singles before the trio evolved into a rap act known for repurposed Led Zeppelin samples and wisecracking rhymes on its debut album, 1986’s “License to Ill.” It was the first of eight studio albums that have collectively sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, including “Paul’s Boutique” in 1989, “Ill Communication” in 1994 and last year’s “Hot Sauce Committee, Part 2,” the release of which was delayed after Yauch’s cancer diagnosis.
Those early albums especially were transformational, helping to spread hip-hop from the streets of New York, where it originated in the 1970s, to the cassette players of suburban teens everywhere via singles like “Fight For Your Right” and “Hey Ladies,” and videos that featured the trio goofing around.
Yauch directed many of those clips videos under the pseudonym Nathaniel Hornblower (and wrote a letter under that name to The New York Times in 2004 — third one down), though Spike Jonze directed the band’s most famous video, “Sabotage,” a send-up/homage to 1970s cop shows.
In addition to his musical activities, Yauch, a New York native, was a Buddhist and high-profile proponent of the Free Tibet movement. He helped organize — and headlined with the Beastie Boys — a series of Tibetan Freedom music festivals between 1996-2001.
Yauch is survived by his wife Dechen and his daughter Tenzin Losel, and his parents Frances and Noel Yauch.