This piece was originally published May 7th, 2012.
I was floored. The more recent news on Adam’s battle with his illness seemed to be that it was of a treatable variety, so surely he would not only return to making music soon enough, he would be back on the stage touring once more with his partners.
Oddly, just a few days ago, I was telling a friend how The Beastie Boys were among my favorite groups that I had yet to see live, but I was sure there would come a time. Now I am sure it won’t be happening, and if the other B Boys decide to carry on, it will be difficult to recreate the magic of the mighty three.
Throughout the evening regardless of the radio station format on this particular sad day, it seemed that all you heard was music by The Beastie Boys. Whether it was a news station using some in the background, NPR or even the opening music for the nightly Red Sox baseball game, it was apparent just how far reaching was Adam Yauch’s fanbase and mark on pop culture.
For myself, The Beastie Boys impact on my listening life (not to mention viewing their great videos) will always be immeasurable.
Before their first album Licensed To Ill brought Hip Hop into the mainstream with a promulgated party explosion, there had been incredible Rap albums by incredible vaunted Hip Hop artists, but somehow with The Beastie Boysemergence, the excitement of possibilities within the genre had all changed.
Adam Yauch formed The Beastie Boys as a hardcore punk band (original guitarist John Berry gave them the name) from his Brooklyn base, but they changed, mutated, expanded, experimented and over the course of eight legendary albums and loads of singles, b-sides and outtakes, grew to become one of music’s more interesting and enduring acts. Not only by crashing through the racial barriers that at first made one wonder if a white Rap trio could be taken seriously, but then, by completely dismantling any presuppositions about themselves and in the process what Hip Hop was and could be.
The complete LP fold out cover to the masterpiece, Paul’s Boutique
Over their run of brilliant albums, including their spectacular albums Paul’s Boutique (1989) and Hello Nasty(1998), The Beastie Boys excelled above most everyone when it came to clever, sharp and intelligent wordplay.
Yet, as shown on their many instrumental tracks and from the stellar instrumental only album, The Mix Up, they showed a keen musicianship and a deep knowledge of musical styles from Punk, Progressive Jazz and Krautrock, through Soul, R&B and of course Funk. You name a genre, and it’s a pretty sure bet that somewhere on a Beastie Boys’ track, they dip into it.
Adam Yauch was a mere three years older than his two partners, yet he gave the impression of being the elder statesman who, with a voice of gravel, laid down raps that many times seemed to punctuate the other two’s with a purposeful wisdom.
Growing up from the days of the Licensed To Ill tour, with its Go-Go dancers in cages and giant inflatable penises, Adam Yauch presence increased as a humanitarian and Buddhist, creating the Milarepa Fund devoted to Tibetan independence from China, and in turn organized the various Tibetan Freedom Concerts, which were hugely successful, boasting enormous attendance records.
His creativity and sense of humor never waned despite being part of a best selling major label act, and it only seemed as if his D.I.Y. spirit increased.
In 2002 he built a recording studio named Oscilloscope Laboratories, and subsequently entered the independent film distribution business by launching Oscilloscope Pictures. By sticking to the guidelines of the independent record labels and zines he’d grown up admiring, he made sure that Oscilloscope Pictures product was all about sincerity and respect.
As a director, Adam Yauch working as Nathaniel Hörnblowér, directed many of the greatest Beastie Boys videos.
Among my two all time faves are the ones for “Intergalactic” and the Danger Diobolik spoof, “Body Movin'”.
R.I. P. Adam Yauch. Long may you rhyme…