Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch dies of cancer, aged 47

Fri May 4, 2012 6:55pm EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Adam Yauch, a founding member of pioneering hip-hop group the Beastie Boys who captivated fans with their brash style in early hits like "Fight for Your Right (To Party)," died on Friday after a battle with cancer. He was 47.

Yauch, Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz formed the band that gained fame in the 1980s and stood out not just for their music, but for their ethnicity. In a genre dominated by African-Americans, they were three white Jewish kids from Brooklyn, New York.

The Beastie Boys sold some 40 million records worldwide over more than 20 years. As time passed, Yauch branched into filmmaking and activism, helping raise money for various causes including efforts to help free Tibet from Chinese rule.

"It is with great sadness that we confirm that musician, rapper, activist and director Adam "MCA" Yauch, founding member of Beastie Boys ... passed away in his native New York City this morning after a near-three-year battle with cancer," said a statement posted on the band's website.

In July 2009, Yauch disclosed he had been diagnosed with a tumor in his left salivary gland and lymph node, and he later had surgery and sought medical treatment in Tibet, among other places. In October of that year, he said he was "feeling healthy, strong and hopeful" that he had beaten the disease.

But as recently as last month, it was apparent Yauch was very ill when he missed his group's introduction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Yauch was born in Brooklyn on August 5, 1964, and taught himself to play bass guitar, forming a band on his 17th birthday that would later become the Beastie Boys. He went by stage name MCA. Diamond was Mike D and Horovitz, Ad-Rock.

Initially, the group played punk rock, but soon switched to rap as that musical genre gained prominence on New York streets and in underground clubs in the early 1980s.   Continued...

The Beastie Boys (L-R) Mike Diamond, Adam Horowitz and Adam Yauch are photographed at the 2006 Sundance film festival in Park City, Utah, January 22, 2006. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni