May 4, 2012, 2:22 PM
Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys Dies
By JAMES C. MCKINLEY JR.
3:49 p.m. | Updated Adam Yauch, one of the founders of the seminal hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, has died of cancer at the age of 47, his mother, Frances Yauch, said in a phone conversation.
Mr. Yauch, who went by the moniker MCA, had been battling cancer since 2009, when a tumor was discovered in his salivary gland. He did not come to the Beastie Boys induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April and his treatments for the illness forced the group to delay the release of their last album “Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2.”
Emerging from the hard-core punk scene in New York in the late 1970s, the Beastie Boys were the first white group to successfully sing rap songs and have remained popular for more than a quarter century. Mr. Yauch co-founded the group with Mike Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) as a punk band in 1981 and first began experimenting with hip-hop the following year, when they released a 12-inch vinyl rap spoof “Cookie Puss.” All three were teenagers from affluent New York families when they met.
But in 1986, they crossed into the rap mainstream with “Licensed to Ill,” which was the first hip-hop album to hit No. 1 on the albums chart and featured hits like “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)” and “Brass Monkey.” It was just the first of a string of hit records, like 1989’s “Paul’s Boutique,” 1992’s “Check Your Head” and 1994’s “Ill Communication.”
Mr. Yauch (pronounced YOWK), a practicing Buddhist, was also involved in the movement to free Tibet and organized concerts for the cause in the late 1990s, and he and his band mates started an indie record label in the 1990s called Grand Royal. His interests also extended beyond music, particularly film. Under the name Nathanial Hörnblowér, he directed many of the Beastie Boys’ music videos and their 2006 concert film, which was shot by fans, while under his own name, he released “Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot,” a documentary about high school basketball players. (In 2004, Mr. Yauch, under the pseudonym Nathanial Hornblower, wrote a letter to The Times in response to a story about his music video, “Ch-Check It Out.”) And he started an independent film division of his company, Oscilloscope Laboratories, which has released critically acclaimed films like “Wendy and Lucy.”
When Ad-Rock and Mike D accepted the Beastie Boys’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two weeks ago, they read a letter from Mr. Yauch thanking both his bandmates and the group’s fans. “I’d like to dedicate this to my brothers Adam and Mike,” he wrote. “They walked the globe with me. It’s also for anyone who has ever been touched by our band. This induction is as much ours as it is yours.”
Mr. Yauch’s mother said he died at 9 a.m. on Friday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan with his parents, his in-laws, his wife, Dechen Wangdu, and his 13-year-old daughter, Tenzin Losel Yauch, at his bedside. He had been admitted to the hospital on April 14 after a three-year battle with cancer of the salivary gland. He was conscious until the end.
“He was a very courageous person,” his mother, Frances Yauch, said. “He fought a long battle with cancer. He was hopeful to the very end.”
Mrs. Yauch said had been undergoing chemotherapy this spring, but his health deteriorated rapidly over the last two weeks. “It all just seemed to happen overnight,” she said. She added: “He was a terrific guy and had a brief but really wonderful life. We are really proud of him.”