The Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch died today at age 47. The news was first reported by Russell Simmons’ GlobalGrind.com.
“Adam was incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist who I loved dearly,” said Simmons, who released the multi-platinum debut Licensed to Ill through his Def Jam Recordings in 1986. “I was always inspired by his work. He will be missed by all of us.”
In November 2009 Yauch he had been diagnosed with a cancerous parotid gland (the largest salivary gland), for which he underwent surgery and received radiation therapy. In January, fellow Beastie Boy Mike D gave the BBC encouraging reports on Yauch’s “improved health,” which led to misleading reports on Yauch being cancer-free. This prompted Yauch to release a statement:
“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.”
The band of Yauch (aka MCA), Mike D, and Adam Horovitz formed in 1979 as a punk band that gradually evolved into a commercially successful, technically proficient, and musically challenging mix of hip-hop and rock that influenced hundreds of bands worldwide. According to Billboard, during the Nielsen SoundScan era — which monitors record and video sales since 1991 — all Beastie Boys albums (including two compilations and one archives release) have sold 10.2 million copies. Other reports indicate the band may have sold over 40 million records since 1986.
Originally scheduled to be released in 2009, Hot Sauce Committee Part 1 was shelved after Yauch’s cancer diagnose, which also caused the band to cancel engagements at Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits. The slightly altered album was finally released in 2011 under the title Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. Rumors of a future release of Part One containing the songs originally planned for Part Two have not been confirmed.
On April 14, the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but didn’t attend the ceremony.
“We're in the rock and roll hall of fame? That's fucking crazy and awesome!” said the band in a statement. “While we are very proud of the music we make, we have to acknowledge the inspiration from our families, friends and musicians like the Slits, Bad Brains, X-Ray Spex, the Treacherous Three and too many others to possibly name. And most of all, we give thanks to New York City and the world of musical influence it provided for us."
Besides the music, Yauch, a Buddhist, will be remembered for his efforts on behalf of Tibet in its struggle to obtain freedom from mainland China rule.
“What we’re really trying to do is create more of a forum for the Tibetans themselves to be able to speak,” he told PBS’s Frontline. The multi-band Tibetan Freedom Concerts, organized by Yauch through the band's Milarepa Foundation, raised more than $2.3 million for the Tibetan struggle and attracted more than 339,000 fans in North America, Europe, and Asia, and inspired the Students for a Free Tibet movement worldwide.
Yauch is survived by his wife and a daughter. — Enrique Lopetegui