Friday, May 4, 2012

The Passing of a Musical Icon: Adam Yauch

It's not often that I am moved to write about the death of a celebrity, unless it's to be snarky or prove a point. However, today I felt the need to write as I absorb the news that a musician I greatly admired for over half my life, roughly the last 25 years, had finally lost his 3-year battle with cancer.

Known to the world as MCA, Adam Nathaniel Yauch was one-third of pioneering hip-hop band The Beastie Boys. MCA was always my favorite band member, with his gravelly voice and incredible rhyme delivery. More than just a rapper, Yauch was a talented lyricist, director, and film distributor, as well as a husband & father.

Born & raised in his beloved Brooklyn, NY , Yauch fittingly passed away there today at 47. At the tender age of 22, Yauch and his bandmates exploded onto the music scene in late 1986/early 1987 with the release of their debut album License to Ill, which sold over 9 million copies and was the first hip-hop album to top the Billboard 200 charts. To date, The Beastie Boys have sold over 40 million albums worldwide and have been nominated for ten Grammy Awards, winning three. This year the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with Yauch being inducted in absentia due to his failing health, with his bandmates paying him a warm tribute from the stage. A letter from Adam was read to the crowd and fellow inductees The Red Hot Chili Peppers dedicated their live performance to Yauch.

 Goofy kids having fun: The Beastie Boys in 1987. From L-R : MCA (Adam Yauch), Ad-Rock (Adam Horowitz), and Mike-D (Michael Diamond).

 All grown up: The Boys in 2006, L-R Mike-D, MCA, and Ad-Rock.

In 2011, Adam received the Charles Flint Kellogg Award in Arts and Letters from the college he attended for two years, Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. The award is "given in recognition of a significant contribution to the American artistic or literary heritage".

 A practicing Buddhist, Yauch founded Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organization which promotes Tibetan independence.  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 largest U.S. benefit concert since 1985's Live Aid. 

After September 11, Milarepa organized New Yorkers Against Violence, a benefit headlined by Beastie Boys in New York, with the proceeds going to to the New York Women’s Foundation Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Association for New Americans September 11 Fund for New Americans.
I guess Adam’s death hit me harder than the average celebrity death because he was only 5 years  older than me, and his music had been part of my life for 25 years. I never heard anything negative in the press about him and he always seemed like he’d be a really fun guy to hang out with for an afternoon, down to earth rather than a pretentious flake. 

Rest in peace, sir. You’ll be sorely missed.


Brooke said...

I didn't know he was struggling with his health. God be with their family!

Crysk17 said...

Very nicely said. I really like the way you told his story with so much care. Well done. Crysk