Beastie Boys star Adam Yauch dies aged 47


Adam Yauch accepting a Webby Artist of the Year Award in 2007

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Beastie Boys rapper Adam Yauch has died at the age of 47, his publicist has confirmed to the BBC.

The musician, director and Tibet activist was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer in 2009.

Yauch underwent surgery and radiation therapy but said in 2011 reports he was totally cancer-free were "exaggerated".

Under the alias MCA, he formed part of the band that eventually became the Beastie Boys, selling 40 million albums worldwide with Mike D and Ad Roc.

The Beastie Boys Yauch, pictured with his bandmates in 2011

Tributes have already been paid to the star on Twitter, with the likes of De La Soul, Ice T, Joe Satriani and Common passing on their condolences.

Rapper Biz Markie, who collaborated with the Beastie Boys on their Ill Communication album, wrote: "My brother, you are truly going to be missed. My heart is heavy."

Fellow New Yorker Moby added: "I'm very, very sad to hear of Adam Yauch's passing. He was a wonderful, generous, remarkable, and inspiring man and friend."

In a nod to the scope of the group's fame, New York Senator Chuck Schumer also tweeted his condolences: "Born and Bred in Brooklyn, U.S.A., they call him Adam Yauch, but he's M.C.A. RIP Adam."

Justin Timberlake said he was "crushed" by the news, while Nirvana's bassist Krist Novoselic thanked Yauch for his "Sabotage bass riff and many other great grooves".


The Beastie Boys started out as a hardcore punk outfit called The Young Aborigines in 1979 but switched to hip hop in 1984.

Two years later they launched their critically-acclaimed debut album Licensed To Ill, which spawned the hit singles (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) and No Sleep Till Brooklyn.

Fusing rock guitars with lo-fi hip-hop beats, Licensed To Ill was one of the first rap records to cross over to a mainstream audience - and the first to top the US charts.

The Beastie Boys perform live on stage at Wembley Arena in north London Tuesday 7 December 2004 The Beastie Boys, with Yauch (left), at London's Wembley Arena in 2004

But the band became equally well-known for their bratty, bad-boy personas.

They were lambasted in the British press for their stage show, which featured giant inflatable phalluses and cage dancers.

And, when they began to wear the Volkswagen emblem on chains around their necks, it reportedly led to a rise in vandalised cars.

Their obnoxious behaviour undoubtedly started as an in-joke but became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy as their fame increased.

Over the years, however, the Beastie Boys rehabilitated their image.

Their second album, Paul's Boutique, was retrospectively considered a masterpiece, its genre-bending sound collages paving the way for the likes of Beck and The Avalanches.

Later records saw them play their own instruments and expand their horizons beyond hip-hop.

In 1996, they released The In Sound From Way Out! - a collection of jazz and funk instrumentals, while the group collaborated with reggae legend Lee "Scratch" Perry on 1998's Hello Nasty.

But they are best remembered for their hardcore rap tracks - Sure Shot, Sabotage and the crossover hit Intergalactic.

Yauch was the band's filmographer, directing several of their videos under the pseudonym Nathaniel Hornblower.

He also directed the band's concert movie Awesome... I Shot That, which stitched together footage from dozens of audience-members.

Adam Yauch Yauch was married to Tibetan-American activist, Dechen Wangdu

The rapper grew up in Brooklyn, and was fascinated by electronics and explosives at a young age, building small home-made bombs from fireworks he had hoarded at home.

Aged 14, he removed himself from a Quaker school to join a public high school in New York. "I felt I was leading too much of a sheltered life," he told Rolling Stone in 1998.

There he taught himself bass guitar, after discovering punk through The Clash's debut album.

His new schoolfriends also introduced him to his future bandmates for the first time.

In addition to his rap career, Yauch was heavily involved in the Free Tibet movement, and co-organised several fundraising concerts in the 1990s.

"I think that movies and CDs... they affect the way people think," he told PBS in 1997. "I know they've radically affected the way I think."

He revealed he had cancer in a salivary gland in his neck in July 2009, which led to the scrapping of a tour and an album - Hot Sauce Committee, Pt 1.

In an email to fans later that year, he said the tumour had been removed and he was feeling "healthy, strong and hopeful".

Yauch travelled to a Tibetan community in Dharamsala in India after surgery.

He told fans: "I'm taking Tibetan medicine and at the recommendation of the Tibetan doctors I've been eating a vegan/organic diet."

But in January 2010, he was forced to deny press reports that he was fully recovered.

"I'm continuing treatment, staying optimistic and hoping to be cancer free in the near future," he said in a statement.

The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month, but Yauch was not able to attend. On the night, The Red Hot Chili Peppers dedicated their performance to Yauch.

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


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  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    I was a teenage au pair in Paris when I saw the Beasties and Run Dmc on the Licensed to Ill tour in 1987.What a gig it was.The whole place was hyped up and the atmosphere was electric.Being slightly obssesed with the Beastie Boys,me and my mates used to busk on the Paris metro singing their songs very badly !
    You'll be sadly missed MCA.Thanks for giving me so many good memories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Very sad and thoughts are with his family and loved ones. Great musicians and activists without the pomposity of other musician/activists. Will enjoy his music, his legacy and I am glad I had the opportunity to see them live a few times. Amazing and a terribly sad bit of news.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Licence To Ill was released when I was at school, not only was it an innovative album but also an important bridge between black and white music. Never stopped loving this band, they never made a bad tune. The star studded video that accompanied their last single was a tribute to the high esteem in which they are held. Sad, sad day!

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    So grateful I was lucky enough to see the Beastie Boys at Wembley in 2004, one of the best nights of my life. Their music has been a huge influence on my life and I am just so terribly gutted and upset to hear of this. Rest in Peace MCA

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    A true musician with decades of raw, repeatable talent. He wasn't taken through drink or drugs, this is the kind of rock-star role model kids should be looking up to.

    I hope his life and death is respected throughout the music world as he so deserves.


Comments 5 of 7


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