Adam Yauch

Adam Yauch

Yauch in 2007
Background information
Birth name Adam Nathaniel Yauch
Also known as MCA, Nathanial Hörnblowér, Bloach, Abednego, Gary
Born (1964-08-05)August 5, 1964
Brooklyn, New York City, United States
Died May 4, 2012(2012-05-04) (aged 47)
New York City, US[1]
Genres Hip hop, rap rock, hardcore punk, alternative hip hop, rock opera
Occupation(s) Rapper, musician, songwriter, director, film distributor
Instruments Vocals, bass guitar, keyboard
Years active 1979–2012
Labels Def Jam, Grand Royal, Capitol
Associated acts Beastie Boys

Adam Nathaniel Yauch (pronounced /ˈjk/; August 5, 1964 – May 4, 2012) was an American rapper, musician, film director, and human rights activist. He was best known as a founding member of the hip hop group Beastie Boys. He was frequently known by his stage name, MCA, and sometimes worked under the pseudonym Nathanial Hörnblowér.

Yauch founded Oscilloscope Laboratories, an independent film production and distribution company based in New York City. As a Buddhist, he was involved in the Tibetan independence movement and organized the Tibetan Freedom Concert.[2]

Early life

Born in Brooklyn, New York City, Yauch was the only child of a social worker and a painter and architect.[3] Yauch had a non-religious upbringing. His father had been raised a Catholic and his mother was Jewish.[4][5][6]

Yauch attended Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn's Midwood neighborhood. In high school, he taught himself to play the bass guitar.[7] Yauch formed the Beastie Boys with John Berry, Kate Schellenbach, and Michael Diamond.[8] They played their first show—while still a hardcore punk band in the vein of Reagan Youth—on his 17th birthday. He attended Bard College for two years before dropping out.[9]


The Beastie Boys, a hip hop trio, released their first album Licensed to Ill on Def Jam Records when Yauch was 22. Yauch directed many of the Beastie Boys' music videos, often under the pseudonym Nathanial Hörnblowér.[9][10]

In 2002, Yauch constructed a recording studio in New York City called Oscilloscope Laboratories. He began an independent film distributing company called Oscilloscope Pictures.[11] Yauch directed the 2006 Beastie Boys concert film, Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That!, although in the DVD extras for the film, the title character in "A Day in the Life of Nathanial Hörnblowér" is played by David Cross. He also directed the 2008 film Gunnin' For That #1 Spot about eight high school basketball prospects at the Boost Mobile Elite 24 Hoops Classic at Rucker Park in Harlem, New York City. Yauch produced Build a Nation, the comeback album from hardcore/punk band Bad Brains. In addition, Oscilloscope Laboratories also distributed Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy (2008) and Oren Moverman’s The Messenger (2009).[12]

The Beastie Boys had sold 40 million records worldwide by 2010.[9] In April 2012, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yauch was inducted in absentia due to his illness.[7] His bandmates paid tribute to Yauch; a letter from Yauch was read to the crowd.[13]

In 2011, Yauch received the Charles Flint Kellogg Award in Arts and Letters from Bard College, the college he attended for two years. The award is "given in recognition of a significant contribution to the American artistic or literary heritage."[14]

Personal life

Yauch was a practicing Buddhist.[15] He became an important voice in the Tibetan independence movement.[2][16] He created the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organization devoted to Tibetan independence, and organized several benefit concerts to support the cause, including the Tibetan Freedom Concert.[7][12][17]

Yauch was also a strong supporter of feminism apologizing for early lyrics which he retroactively deemed offensive. Yauch's verse in the song "Sure Shot" includes the lyrics "I want to say a little something that’s long overdue/ The disrespect to women has got to be through/ To all the mothers and sisters and wives and friends/ I want to offer my love and respect to the end."[7][18]

In 1995, while attending a speech by the Dalai Lama at Harvard University, he met his wife, Tibetan American Dechen Wangdu. They married in 1998 and had a daughter, Tenzin Losel, the same year.[7][18][19]

In 1998, during the MTV Video Music Awards, when receiving the Video Vanguard Award, Yauch took the opportunity to make a statement about America's wars against Muslim countries and prejudice against Muslims and Arabs; this was before the term Islamophobia was in wide circulation. Artist Cihan Kaan wrote an obituary in Al Jazeera that Yauch was "Muslim Americans' hero, and America's personal Jewish Gandhi", judging his plea to be greater for intercultural healing than the music of later anti-war rappers whose lyrics included anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories.[20]

Illness and death

In 2009, Yauch was diagnosed and unsuccessfully treated for a cancerous parotid gland and a lymph node. He underwent surgery and radiation therapy, delaying the release of Hot Sauce Committee Part Two and the subsequent tour.[21][22] He was unable to appear in music videos for the album. Yauch became a vegan under the recommendation of his Tibetan doctors.[23] At the time, Yauch described the cancer as "very treatable".[24]

Yauch died at age 47 on May 4, 2012.[1][25][26]

Upon his death, fellow musicians and artists paid tribute:

Beastie Boys rapper Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz posted a note on the Beastie Boys' Tumblr page about the death of Yauch, acknowledging the pain of losing Yauch as well as the admiration for Yauch.[31]

In his last will and testament, Adam Yauch left instructions that his music could not be used in advertising, though some legal experts said that it may not be valid.[32]

On May 3, 2013, ceremonies were held to rename the Palmetto Playground in Brooklyn, New York, to Adam Yauch Park.[33]


  1. 1 2 "Beastie Boys Co-Founder Adam Yauch Dead at 47". Rolling Stone. May 4, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  2. 1 2 Goldberg, Eleanor (May 4, 2012). "Adam Yauch Of Beastie Boys Remembered For Tibetan Activism, Freedom Concerts". The Huffington Post.
  3. "Adam Yauch Dies at 47; Beastie Boy Became Advocate for Tibet", The Washington Post, May 4, 2012, retrieved May 6, 2012
  4. Anthony DeCurtis (May 28, 1998). "Adam Yauch on His Spiritual Journey: 'I Don't Care If Somebody Makes Fun of Me' |". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  5. O'Malley Greenburg, Zack (May 4, 2012). "Adam 'MCA' Yauch And The Beastie Boys: Hip-Hop Pioneers". Forbes. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  6. A. Greenberg, Brad (May 4, 2012). "Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch, Jewish legend and hip-hop pioneer, has died". Jewish Journal. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Gray, Madison (May 4, 2012). "Adam Yauch, MCA of the Beastie Boys, Dies After Cancer Complications". Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  8. "Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch dies at age 47". May 4, 2012. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Coyle, Jake (May 2, 2008). "Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys dies at 47". Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  10. "Nathanial Hornblower bio".
  11. Ryzik, Melena (September 8, 2008). "Offstage, a Beastie Boy Enters the World of Independent Film". The New York Times. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  12. 1 2 Rafer Guzman. "Beastie Boys rapper Adam Yauch dead at 47". Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  13. "Yauch misses Hall of Fame ceremony". London Free Press. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  14. "Academics – Bard College Catalogue". Bard College. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  15. Van Biema, David; McDowell, Jeanne (October 13, 1997). "Buddhism in America". Time Magazine.
  16. "FRONTLINE:Online Interview with Adam Yauch". Frontline.
  17. "Tibet supporter Yauch of Beastie Boys fights with cancer". July 21, 2009. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  18. 1 2 Seltzer, Sarah (May 4, 2012). "Adam Yauch, Feminist Ally - Sisterhood". The Forward. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  19. Tibet Sun: "The union between Adam Yauch and Dechen Wangdu: a look back" from the International Business Times May 5, 2012
  20. Kaan, Cihan (9 May 2012). "Adam Yauch was a Muslim hero". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  21. Thomson, Katherine (July 20, 2009). "Beastie Boy Adam Yauch has 'very treatable.' cancer". Huffington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved January 11, 2012.
  22. Yauch Announcement on YouTube
  23. "Beastie Boy 'hopeful' over cancer". BBC News. October 8, 2009.
  24. "The Associated Press: Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys dies at 47". Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  25. "R.I.P. Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys". Pitchfork Media.
  26. Greg Kot (May 4, 2012). "Adam Yauch dead at 47; Beastie Boys MCA Yauch dead". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2012-07-09.
  27. "MCA RIP". Pearl Jam. May 4, 2012. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  28. "Dot Connectors". Radiohead. May 5, 2012. Retrieved May 5, 2012.
  29. Vena, Jocelyn (May 4, 2012). "Eminem Pays Tribute To Adam Yauch's 'Influence'". MTV. Retrieved May 6, 2012.
  31. Kaufman, Gil (May 7, 2012). "Beastie Boys' Ad-Rock Pays Tribute To Adam Yauch". MTV. Retrieved May 7, 2012.
  32. Goffe, Wendy (August 13, 2012). "Yauch's Will, Banning Use Of Music In Ads, May Not Be Valid". Forbes. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  33. "Brooklyn playground named after Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch NME May 1, 2013". 2013-05-01. Retrieved 2013-12-04.

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