Adam Yauch, better known as MCA of the Beastie Boys, passed away Friday, following a three-year battle with cancer. He was 47.
His death was confirmed by Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Records, the label that was the Beastie Boys' first home.
"Adam was incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist who I loved dearly. I was always inspired by his work. He will be missed by all of us," Simmons posted on Global Grind.
Yauch was diagnosed in 2009 with cancer in his parotid gland, as well as one of his lymph nodes, forcing the band to delay the release of their album "The Hot Sauce Committee Part Two" and tour. Yauch shared the news at the time in a video posted on the band's website.
"I just need to take a little time to get this in check, and then we'll release the record and play some shows," said Yauch in the video. "It's a pain in the neck (sorry had to say it) because I was really looking forward to playing these shows, but the doctors have made it clear that this is not the kind of thing that can be put aside to deal with later."
Yauch's diagnosis prompted the band to cancel its headlining slot in 2009 at what turned out to be the swan song of San Diego's annual Street Scene concerts. It was the second headliner cancellation in as many years -- in 2008, the Black Crowes dropped out, eventually being replaced by Devo. When the Beastie Boys dropped out, fesival organizers eventually added Public Enemy to the bill.
Early last year brought rumors that Yauch was cancer free, but Yauch himself dispelled such talk, saying that, "While I'm grateful for all the positive energy people are sending my way, reports of my being totally cancer free are exaggerated."
Born in Brooklyn in 1964, Yauch taught himself to play bass while in high school. He would celebrate his 17th birthday by playing his first concert with Adam "King Ad Rock" Horovitz and Michael "Mike D" Diamond.
They started out as a punk/hardcore act, but by 1984 they had switched genres, changing over to a rap act. In 1986 they released their debut album, Licensed to Ill, featuring the anthemic hit "You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party," which would go on to sell more than 9million copies.
Over the years, the band would release seven more studio albums, sell millions more albums, sell out tour dates around the world, bring rap music to the masses, and revolutionize music videos. Despite being dismissed at various times in their youth as a novelty act, they ultimately established themselves as one of the genre's most talented, vital and influential acts.
In addition to his work as a musician and rapper, Yauch also directed several of the band's videos under the name Nathaniel Hornblower, and his interest in movies drove him to found the indie film company Oscilloscope Laboratories, which has released films like "Bellflower," "We Need to Talk About Kevin" and "Exit Through the Gift Shop."
Yauch was also a devout Buddhist, and in 1994 he co-founded The Milarepa Fund, an organization dedicated to establishing independence for Tibet, named after an 11th-century Tibetan yogi. In 1996, Yauch and Milarepa launched the Tibetan Freedom Concert, a series of shows around the world to raise money for the cause.
He did not join bandmates Mike “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horowitz at the Beastie Boys’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month due to his condition.
Yauch is survived by his wife, Dechen Wangdu, and their 13-year-old daughter, Tenzin Losel Yauch.