I actually gasped out loud at work when I saw Gawker’s headline yesterday: Beastie Boys Founding Member Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch, Dead at 47.
I hadn’t realized that Yauch was so sick; I kind of assumed (hoped?) that he was still being treated for cancer, maybe taking a bit of a break, but otherwise doing okay. I imagine the barfy feeling I had for the rest of the day yesterday is similar to the one that fans of Whitney Houston or Michael Jackson felt after they also died, too young.
I didn’t personally know MCA, obviously. I never even saw the Beastie Boys live, and now never will; I can’t see Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz trotting out a Yauch hologram, thankfully. I am trying to think, though, of the last time one of my musical heroes of my teens or early 20s died, and nobody is coming to mind. Certainly nobody that actually deserved to be called a hero — both for his artwork and for his efforts to make people give a shit about others.
There are much better tributes online than one that I could write, many written by people who knew more about the Beasties’ music than I can pretend to, and some written by people who actually knew Yauch himself. Go read some of them, listed below:
The Beasties mentioned the Mets in more than one of their tracks; last night all of the team’s starting players used songs by the band for their walk-up music. Kind of can’t believe nobody went with “Sabotage” but it’s hard to argue with any of these picks.
In 2004, Stephanie Zacharek negatively reviewed the video for “Ch-Check It Out” which was directed by Nathaniel Hornblower. Hornblower, aka Yauch, wrote the New York Times a letter in which he demanded they give him a goat, among other things.
Anyway, that video is big time good. Pauline Kael is spinning over in her grave. My film technique is clearly too advanced for your small way of looking at it.
The Times never gave him that goat, but they must not have held any hard feelings — they ran an obit for Yauch on their front page today.
With a scratchy voice that grew scratchier through the years, Mr. Yauch rapped as MCA in the Beastie Boys, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. They offered many listeners in the 1980s their first exposure to hip-hop. They were vanguard white rappers who helped extend the art of sampling and gained the respect of their African-American peers.
Roots drummer Questlove wrote a rambling and loving tribute.
and you know what? they actually made being “square” kinda cool. i know the Boys are going down in history as “first white act this” and “video pioneers that” and blah blah blah….
but id like to acknowledge that they are truly rocks most realized group. (not hip hop but all music really)
you really don’t see many audiences willing to go where their leaders take them once said audience gets comfortable with a position—i mean even the beatles imploded 5 years post spiritual enlightenment. i mean did we really expect the most thoughtful mature considerate act in music to be the same brats who gave us Licensed To Ill?
Cord Jefferson of GOOD wrote about the influence the Beastie Boys had on kids in a rap-disdaining atmosphere.
Like someone who nibbles a bit of bacon and then wonders what the rest of the pig tastes like, soon, dozens of kids I grew up with who loved the Beastie Boys began trekking to Sam Goody (remember those?) to check out what this rap thing was all about. There they found artists like the Beasties’ label-mates (LL Cool J, Run-DMC) and other rap groups with whom they were friendly (Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest). It wasn’t until I was older that I realized the racial implications of what had happened there.
Vish Kanna of CBC Music wrote a tribute that featured commentary from Buck 65, Shad, and D-Sisive.
For a good chunk of time, the Beasties were the ultimate tastemakers; if they mined musical eras/figures for inspiration and samples or switched it up to play their own instruments on a record (Yauch was a crazy-great bassist and the strongest musician of the trio), within months, their sounds were being emulated everywhere and the figures they championed were exposed to a whole new audience.
Perhaps the best tribute of all is the one that ran on the Beastie Boys’ own site, because it covers his life in full: as a musician, a filmmaker, a businessman, an activist, a friend, a son, a husband, and a father.
Forty-seven is too fucking young.
Photo from beastieboys.com