Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch 1964-2012

By | Published on Tuesday 8 May 2012

Adam Yauch

Adam Yauch, best known as a member of Beastie Boys, died on Friday. He was 47.

New Yorker Yauch taught himself to play bass while in high school, and subsequently formed a hardcore punk band in 1979 with his friend Michael Diamond.

Over the next few years that band released a series of seven-inch and twelve-inch records, one of which, ‘Cooky Puss’ saw them experiment with the then still emerging hip hop genre.

Following the addition of guitarist Adam Horovitz in 1983, and with the success of ‘Cooky Puss’, the group started incorporating more rap into their tracks, as well as adopting hip hop style monikers, MCA, Mike D and Ad-Rock. They also recruited a DJ for their live show, in the form of then New York student Rick Rubin, who, within a couple of years – as a rising producer and founder of Def Jam Recordings – was encouraging what was now the Beastie Boys rap trio the world came to know and love to record for his new label.

Support slots with Public Image Limited, Madonna and Run DMC helped build profile for the group, preparing the world for their debut album, ‘Licensed To Ill’, released by Def Jam in 1986. The best selling rap album of the 1980s, and the first record from the genre to top the Billboard chart, the release secured the group worldwide attention and acclaim, and the sort of moral critics that are compulsory to assure credibility in the hip hop world, particularly with the accompanying and somewhat raucous ‘Licensed To Ill’ world tour.

While there was an element of novelty to the Beastie Boys’ debut long player, and their deliberately over the top live show, the group subsequently proved their musical credentials with follow-up albums like ‘Pauls Boutique’, ‘Ill Communication’ and ‘Hello Nasty’. Having parted company with Rubin and Def Jam and forged an alliance with EMI’s Capitol Records, they formed their own imprint Grand Royal that worked with various artists as well as releasing their own output. A Grand Royal magazine also followed.

While the Beastie Boys were busy selling over 40 million records worldwide, Yauch also took up a number of other projects. A keen film-maker too, he produced a number of Beastie Boys videos using the alias Nathanial Hörnblowér, and also founded independent film company Oscilloscope Laboratories, which, amongst other things, released his 2008 directorial film debut, the basketball documentary ‘Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot’.

Having practised Buddhism since 1994, Yauch also become a proactive supporter of the Tibetan independence movement, founding the Milarepa Fund to raise money for those efforts, and staging the first Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in 1996. His charitable fund also gave funds to the New York Women’s Foundation Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Association For New Americans in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on his home city.

Yauch was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, though he remained hopeful he could fight the disease, and continued to work with the Beastie Boys on new album ‘Hot Sauce Committee Part 2’. However concerns were raised recently when Yauch was forced to pull out of a planned performance to celebrate the group’s induction into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame due to ill health.

He is survived by his wife Dechen and his daughter Tenzin Losel.