Adam Yauch, one-third of the pioneering hip-hop group Beastie Boys, has died at the age of 47. Yauch, also known as MCA, had been undergoing a cancer treatment since 2009 after discovering a tumor in his salivary gland.
The Beastie Boys' publicity firm has sent out a press release confirming Yauch passed away on May 4th in New York. Read the entire release below:
"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 near-three-year battle with cancer. He was 47 years old."
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Yauch taught himself to play bass in high school, forming a band for his 17th birthday party that would later become known the world over as Beastie Boys.
With fellow members Michael "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz, Beastie Boys would go on to sell over 40 million records, win three Grammys and release four #1 albums, including the first hip-hop album ever to top the Billboard 200 the band's 1986 debut full length LP "Licensed To Ill". Last month Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with Diamond and Horovitz reading an acceptance speech on behalf of Yauch, who was unable to attend.
In addition to his hand in creating such classic Beastie Boys albums as "Paul's Boutique" and "Ill Communication", Yauch was a founder of the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness and activism regarding the injustices perpetrated on native Tibetans by Chinese occupational government and military forces. In 1996, Milarepa produced the first Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, which was attended by 100,000 people, making it the biggest benefit concert on U.S. soil since 1985's Live Aid.
In the wake of September 11, 2001, Milarepa organized New Yorkers Against Violence, a benefit headlined by Beastie Boys at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom, with net proceeds disbursed to the New York Women's Foundation Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA) September 11th Fund for New Americans.
Under the alias of Nathanial Hörnblowér, Yauch directed iconic Beastie Boys videos including "So What'cha Want", "Intergalactic", "Body Movin'" and "Ch-Check It Out". Under his own name, Yauch directed last year's Fight For Your Right Revisited, an extended video for "Make Some Noise" from Beastie Boys' "Hot Sauce Committee Part Two", starring Elijah Wood, Danny McBride and Seth Rogen as the 1986 Beastie Boys, making their way through a half hour of cameo-studded misadventures before squaring off against Jack Black, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as Beastie Boys of the future.
Yauch's passion and talent for filmmaking led to his founding of Oscilloscope Laboratories, which in 2008 released his directorial film debut, the basketball documentary "Gunnin' For That #1 Spot" and has since become a major force in independent video distribution, amassing a catalogue of such acclaimed titles as Kelly Reichardt's "Wendy And Lucy", Oren Moverman's "The Messenger", Banksy's "Exit Through The Gift Shop", Lance Bangs and Spike Jonze's "Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait Of Maurice Sendak", and many more.
Many of the Beastie Boys' peers and friends have reacted to the saddening news:
Russell Simmons, a longtime friend of the Beasties, said on his Global Grind website, "Adam was incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist, who I loved dearly. I was always inspired by his work. He will be missed by all of us."
Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong (@BJAofficial) tweeted, "Lollapalooza94 talked to Yauch almost everyday He was full of wisdom & encouragement for a freaked out kid like I was. Thank you MCA. LoveBJ".
Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea (@flea333) said, "Prayers and all the love I could ever muster for Adam Yauch. What a beautiful man. God bless his beautiful soul. A class act all the way".
In a statement posted online, Michael Stipe and R.E.M. said, "We've lost one of our greats. A true gentleman with the strongest resolve, humor, and energy to spin the world on its axis... And that is exactly what he did. Let's not forget he did it with panache and style and beats and in various costumes. Even while dressed as a Swiss mountain climber. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Beasties and to Adam's family and fans."
Tom Morello (@tmorello) said, "Rip dear Adam Yauch. Words can't express the sadness and loss. Ur humor, talent & gentle soul are just irreplaceable. Be at peace brother".
Guitar great Slash (@Slash) said, "Sad day. MCA was f--king awesome. RIP man. We'll miss you very much."
Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic (@KristNovoselic) said, "Adam Yauch #RIPMCA. Thank you for Sabotage bass riff and many other great grooves. Adam also worked for justice and peace consciousness."
Drummer Travis Barker (@travisbarker) said, "Rest In Peace Adam Yauch /MCA. 4ever somebody I looked up to & had the pleasure of meeting. Damn this bums me out, we lost one of the best".
Yauch is survived by his wife Dechen and his daughter Tenzin Losel, as well as his parents Frances and Noel Yauch.
Our prayers go out to the family of Adam and the entire Beastie Boys crew.