Adam Nathaniel Yauch — whom you probably know better as MCA from the Beastie Boys — died earlier today. There’s no word yet on the cause of his death, but he’d been battling cancer since 2009, and the Beasties’ concert schedule has had to be rearranged over the past couple of years because of it.
Yauch joined his friend Michael “Mike D” Diamond’s punk band call the Young Aborigines in 1981, which then renamed itself to “The Beastie Boys”. The final member of the trio that we know and love as the Beasties, Adam “Ad Rock” Horovitz would join them in 1983, and their progression from punk to hip-hop began. The transformation was complete when their album Licensed to Ill (I wore out two vinyl copies of this album; I still have my CD) was released in 1986. By 2010, the Beasties had gone on to sell 40 million copies of their album worldwide and influence countless groups in a number of musical genres from hip-hop, punk, funk, jazz and alternative rock. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year, but Yauch wasn’t able to attend because of his illness (the Beasties read a letter he’d written to the attendees). Fellow inductees the Red Hot Chili Peppers dedicated their induction performance to Yauch.
Under the pseudonym “Nathaniel Hörnblowér”, Yauch produced a number of Beastie Boys videos and went on to direct the 2006 Beastie Boys concert film Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! and the 2008 basketball documentary Gunnin’ for That #1 Spot. He also co-founded the Milarepa Foundation (they’re behind the Tibetan Freedom Concert) and the New Yorkers Against Violence concert, whose proceeds when to victims of 9/11 who were unlikely to get help from any other organization.
According to Wikipedia, Yauch received the Charles Flint Kellogg Award in Arts and Letters from Bard College, the college he attended for two years, in 2011, “in recognition of a significant contribution to the American artistic or literary heritage.”
I think I’ll close with this bit from Paul Revere:
Now here’s a little story I’ve got to tell
About three bad brothers you know so well
It started way back in history
With Adrock, M.C.A., and me – Mike D.
Been had a little horsy named Paul Revere
Just me and my horsy and a quart of beer
Riding across the land, kicking up sand
Sheriff’s posse on my tail cause I’m in demand
One lonely Beastie I be
All by myself without nobody
The sun is beating down on my baseball hat
The air is gettin’ hot the beer is getting flat
Lookin’ for a girl I ran into a guy
His name is M.C.A., I said, “Howdy” he said, “Hi”
“Now my name is M.C.A. I’ve got a license to kill
I think you know what time it is it’s time to get ill
Now what do we have here an outlaw and his beer
I run this land, you understand I make myself clear.”
We stepped into the wind he had a gun, I had a grin
You think this story’s over but it’s ready to begin
RIP, MCA, and thanks for all the great music.