3 Years Ago: Remembering Beastie Boys’ Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch
Three years ago, Beastie Boys rapper Adam “MCA” Yauch passed away at age 47 following a three-year battle with cancer of his parotid gland and lymph node. Shortly after his death, the New York State Senate declared May 4 “MCA Day,” a time to remember the musician’s contributions to music, his work as an activist and beyond.
As one-third of the innovative hip-hop trio Beastie Boys, Yauch, Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovtiz and Michael “Mike D.” Diamond created a genre-bending blend of rap, hardcore punk, rock and funk that spanned eight albums. Since their 1986 debut, Licensed to Ill -- which was the first hip-hop album to reach the top of the Billboard charts -- the New York City outfit's enduring, more than 30-year career has left an indelible imprint on the musical landscape.
In addition to his work with the Beastie Boys, Yauch also founded the film production company Oscilloscope Laboratories after directing several of the trio’s music videos. Yauch was also a dedicated activist and committed Buddhist, who co-founded the non-profit organization the Milarepa Fund to support the Tibetan independence movement. The organization went on to launch the annual Tibetan Freedom Concert, which raised money and awareness around Tibetan social justice issues.
The late rapper’s will expressly prohibits the commercial use of Beastie Boys’ music in advertisements. Since his passing in 2012, the surviving Beastie Boys have diligently honored Yauch’s request, taking several companies to court over using the rappers’ music without license.
The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame shortly before Yauch’s death. The televised ceremony was dedicated in his memory.
Horovitz and Diamond broke the news of their bandmate and friend’s death in a statement that opened:
It is with great sadness that we confirm that musician, rapper, activist and director Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch, founding member of Beastie Boys and also of the Milarepa Foundation that produced the Tibetan Freedom Concert benefits, and film production and distribution company Oscilloscope Laboratories, passed away in his native New York City this morning after a three-year battle with cancer.
Later, Horovitz offered his own statement, writing, “As you can imagine, s--- is just f---ed up right now. But I wanna say thank you to all our friends and family (which are kinda one in the same) for all the love and support. I’m glad to know that all the love that Yauch has put out into the world is coming right back at him.”
Other musicians also shared condolences and memories of the late rapper and his lasting legacy.
“I kind of felt like they were family, but once removed,” Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell wrote for Rolling Stone. “He was a really good guy trying to help people, and all about being innocent and wild, and even immature if you want to be. He was really such a part of our party vernacular -- our musical vernacular.”
Radiohead’s Thom Yorke wrote, “We looked up to the Beastie Boys a lot when we were starting out and how they maintained artistic control making wicked records but still were on a major label, and the Tibetan Freedom Concerts they organized had a very big influence on me personally and the way Adam conducted himself and dealt with it all impressed me a lot.”
As we spend today reflecting on Yauch’s life and work, take a look at a few photos of the late, great artist over the years below: