One Less Beastie There Be

Cover of "Licensed to Ill"

Pirates on Cassette: The Rap/Rock/Hip-Hop Classic Album Licensed to Ill

“Met a little horsie named Paul Revere.” “Brass Monkey, that funky monkey!” “No Sleep Till… Brooklyn!” All quotable party anthems from the seminal Beastie Boys album Licensed to Ill, which debuted waay back in 1986. Rap/rock fusion was as evolutionary as rap was revolutionary, and the Beasties, along with Run DMC, Aerosmith, Blondie and Anthrax, were the champions of it.

The Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch, a.k.a. MCA, died from cancer at age 47. In July 2009, the 47-year-old member of the Beastie Boys announced that he would be receiving treatment for a cancerous tumor in his salivary gland, and that, as a result, the group would cancel some future shows and push back the release of a new album. Saddened Lollapalooza goers that year saw the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’s in their place.

In 2011 it was erroneously reported that Yauch had beaten the disease. On the band’s website he wrote:

“Hello My Friends While I’m grateful for all the positive energy people are sending my way, reports of my being totally cancer free are exaggerated. I’m continuing treatment, staying optimistic and hoping to be cancer free in the near future.”

Most recently, it appeared Yauch’s health had taken a turn for the worse when he proved unable to attend the Beastie Boys’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on April 14.

Yauch and Michael “Mike D” Diamond first performed as the Beastie Boys with John Berry and Kate Schellenbach in 1981. Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz replaced Berry in 1982.

The permanent lineup of Yauch, Diamond and Horovitz released eight albums. On Saturday, May 5, HBO will air the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony honoring the group, who became just the third rap group to enter the Hall, after Run-D.M.C. (2009) and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (2007).

Yauch was a practicing Buddhist who worked extensively on behalf of Tibet’s oppressed Buddhist population. He was instrumental in organizing a series of Tibetan Freedom Concerts between 1996 and 2001, featuring acts including U2, Radiohead, and Run-D.M.C.

In recent years, Yauch also branched out into film, forming Oscilloscope Laboratories, a production and distribution company whose credits include “We Need to Talk About Kevin, “Wendy and Lucy” and the Banksy documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop.”

In 2011, Yauch received the Charles Flint Kellogg Award in Arts and Letters from Bard College, which he attended for two years. The award is given in recognition of a “significant contribution to the American artistic or literary heritage.”

Yauch is survived by his wife and daughter, and mourned by music lovers worldwide.

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