Adam Yauch — hip-hop revolutionary, filmmaker, humanitarian, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and punk rocker from Brooklyn — died Friday, May 4. He was 47.
Yauch co-founded the Beastie Boys in 1979 in New York's burgeoning hardcore punk scene and crossed the lines into hip-hop with the one-off but well-received 1983 EP Cooky Puss.
The band — Yauch (MCA), with Michael Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) — released its Def Jam debut, Licensed to Ill, in 1986, an international, multi-, multi-platinum success that kickstarted the group's long lasting and continuously relevant output as old school hip-hop godfathers, golden age heroes and pioneers of new sounds in the changing face of hip-hop.
From Paul's Boutique, which took away the band's party boy masks and replaced them with groundbreaking sampling and rhyme skills, to Ill Communication's basement funk and punk, to Hello Nasty's rebooted, space age experiments, to last year's forward-thinking throwback Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, the group rarely slowed down, if only for downtime to politicize.
Yauch was a practicing Buddhist and devoted himself to the Milarepa Fund to advocate Tibetan independence. Under his pseudonym Nathanial Hornblower, Yauch directed videos for "So Whatcha Want," "Intergalactic," "Body Movin'" and "Ch-Check It Out," and, under his real name, he created Oscilloscope Laboratories, which has released Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, Banksy's Exit Through The Gift Shop and other independent films.
In July 2009, he was diagnosed and treated for a cancerous tumor in his parotid gland. He announced to his fans, via YouTube, his cancer and that the band would be canceling tours and pushing back the release of Hot Sauce Committee Part One (though, as a joke, the band released its sequel right on schedule). He sent an email to fans following surgery and before radiation treatment began, saying it went well: "I do think that all of the well wishes have contributed to the fact that my treatment and recovery are going well. Much love back at all of you!"
(Below, the band's last New Orleans appearance, at the 2004 Voodoo Experience.)
Last month, in one of his last messages to fans, he invited people to meditate with him twice daily to visualize "smashing apart all the cancer cells in the world":
we are visualizing taking the energy away from the cancer, and then sending it back at the cancer as lightning bolts that will break apart the DNA and RNA of the cells. if you have the time, please join us in whipping up this lightening storm. mind over matter......
if you prefer to sit then sit, but if you are not used to meditating, or sitting quietly doesn't sound like fun, put on some music and dance while you do the visualization, and if you want to do it at some other time, or picture curing some other illness that's fine too. (Yoko Ono) will be joining the meditation by visualizing all of us dancing with joy to celebrate the world without cancer. all variations are welcome. this is really just being done with a wish for all beings to be cured of all illnesses and to find true lasting happiness.
Today, the Beastie Boys website posted his obituary. Yauch is survived by wife Dechen, daughter Tenzin Losel, and parents Frances and Noel Yauch.